Global Environmental Politics and the Liberal Arts

Free College Pathology Student Sleeping Creative Commons
© D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr Creative Commons

Global Environmental Politics and the Liberal Arts

Sitting in today’s class feels different from my last two blocks at CC. I’m not staring at a chalk board noting equations, and today’s reading didn’t come from a text book with problem sets at the back.

A student from my last block in Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory sits across from me. An environmental science major leans his long board against the back wall, and I discuss the reading with a friend in Math-Econ who enjoys dipping her toes into Political Science. A Biology major quietly sips her coffee two seats away.  How wonderfully CC.


Our topic is the Deconstruction of the Global Commons, but more than that it is a class about interdisciplinary consilience. So many of the important topics we deal with in different fields require an understanding from a breadth of topics – Biology, Ecology, Economics, Mathematics, and yes – Political Science. At most schools, these departments are squirreled away in different buildings across campus, rarely breaching the surface of their respective disciplines to grab a coffee with someone from another department, let alone to share a class with them.

San Diego City College Library © Joe Crawford via Flickr Creative Commons

Cross-Discipline Study of Environmental Policy

Even liberal arts colleges have been slowly developing away from their romantic ideal of holistic learning, and towards the specialization intrinsic to state schools. That is – through the veil of coordinating efforts on Environmental Policy – our discussion. The goal of this class, and by extension the spirit of an authentic liberal arts education, is to get students from multiple disciplines to understand the perspectives from other fields. In this class, tackling environmental issues clearly requires this.

We dive into the conflicted world of international political theory, where I feel at home, only to be swept away by two biology articles that read to me like Greek. I watched a Discovery Channel show about this once, I think, maybe… I wonder if I’ve gotten in over my head, as the girl down the row discusses her independent research in Costa Rica on oceanic biology. Back to economic growth theory and I’m in safe waters. Around and around this course goes… And I’m loving it. Every single student in the class is clearly learning – broadening our world views.