The biological sciences, which concentrate on the study of all living organisms, from humans to microbes, their life processes, and evolutionary development, offer environmentally focused programs in biochemistry, micro and molecular biology, ecology, zoology, marine biology, and botany.
In the earth sciences, where the processes that created, sustain, and change the earth are the focus, there are such degree offerings as chemistry, geology, geography, physics, meteorology, and oceanography.
In engineering, the focus is on the application of mechanical principles to practical situations by the use of tools and machines. Some majors in the environmental field include agricultural engineering, architectural engineering, civil engineering, health engineering, and materials engineering. There are 28 undergraduate degree programs in environmental engineering, and nine of these are certified by the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET). These programs are at the following colleges and universities: the California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, the Florida Institute of Technology, Michigan Technology University, the Montana College of Mineral Science & Technology, Northwestern University, the Pennsylvania State University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The planning discipline, which includes environmental architects and de-signers, urban, regional, state, and federal planners, architects, and landscapes, deals primarily with land and space use issues. For the planning professions, there are few, if any, employment opportunities for those without an undergraduate degree and many jobs require a master's degree. Generally, planners are required to take courses in planning theory, economics, public policy, economic development, environmental issues, and planning law, among others. Graduates design and implement environmental projects and work to maintain a balance between functional and aesthetic properties. There are numerous programs in general planning, and 15 colleges offering a specific degree program in environmental design.
There are also concentrations in the health sciences that provide evidence of the medical effects resulting from environmental modification. Health scientists mainly monitor and enforce the complex set of environmental health and safety regulations. Some of the medical concentrations include public health specialists, occupational and industrial hygienists, safety engineers, emergency/disaster scientists, and toxicologists.
Sources of Further Information
- Education for the Earth (1993). Published by Peterson's Guides, Princeton, New Jersey. A school-by-school profile of programs in environmental engineering, health, and science, natural resource management, and environmental studies.
- Peterson's Guide to Four-Year Colleges (annual). Published by Peterson's Guides, Princeton, New Jersey.
- Barron's Profile of American Colleges (annual). Published by Barron Ed-ucational Service Inc.
- Lovejoy's College Guide (annual). Published by Prentice Hall, New York. Index of Majors (annual). Published by the College Entrance Examination Board, New York, New York.
Many schools have brought together faculty from different departments to form interdisciplinary environmental programs. The purpose of these programs is to integrate the teachings of various disciplines and present the student with a more complete understanding of environmental issues. According to the College Entrance Examination Board, presently 317 four- year schools offer an undergraduate major in environmental studies.
Because the definition of ecology emphasizes the interrelation of humans to their environment, it is logical to pull together and study the social and physical sciences simultaneously. It makes little sense to study solutions to air pollution exclusively from an engineering standpoint. To do so would disregard the importance of the economic, social, or political factors, all of which influence the outcome of any program designed to abate air pollution. It may be technically feasible to place scrubber devices on all smokestacks and drastically curtail the amount of toxins released into the air, but it may be difficult, if not impossible, to get companies to actually install them without government regulations. What appears to be a simple task from an engineering standpoint is actually a quite challenging objective when considered in the economic and political realm.
The intent of interdisciplinary programs is to overcome the shortfalls of uni-dimensional classroom learning. A course that considers the subject of air pollution control would have economists, sociologists, and political scientists, as well as engineers, explaining their various approaches to the problem and would give the student a more realistic conception of how environmental problems are approached and solved. This combination of technical, social, political, and economic teachings is becoming the core of many environmental programs.
Some large universities that have developed solid interdisciplinary environmental curricula are Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania, which, through the cooperation of the departments of meteorology, geology, and geography, operates the Earth Systems Science Center. At the State University of New York at Syracuse, the College of Forestry and Environmental Science has built a good reputation. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has built its Department of Environmental Science and Engineering into one of the finest programs in the country. Indiana University at Bloomington offers environmental studies in both the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the Illinois State University at Normal has an environmental health program that integrates medical and public policy issues. Also, the University of California at Santa Barbara has a fine environmental studies curriculum in its School of Liberal Arts.