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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

City College to launch new environmental studies degree program

City College philosophy Professor Elizabeth Forrester says the Environmental Literacy program will likely be established as an Associate of Arts degree at City College come fall 2016. Photo by Elizabeth Ramirez |
City College philosophy Professor Elizabeth Forrester says the Environmental Literacy program will likely be established as an Associate of Arts degree at City College come fall 2016. Photo by Elizabeth Ramirez | [email protected]

It seems as if hardly a week goes by on campus without someone with a clipboard asking, “Take a minute for the environment?” He or she is usually a member of Greenpeace or a similar group, but what exactly do these questioners mean? And does one need a degree in the sciences to answer such a question?

As it turns out, the answer is no. But City College will likely soon have a new Associate of Arts degree in Environmental Literacy, brought forward and organized by philosophy Professor Elizabeth Forrester, which will offer students an education on the environment from a humanities standpoint.

Forrester says this program is for students who don’t necessarily want to pursue higher-level math and science courses, but who still want to work in the environmental sector.

“I was first motivated to do this by students asking me, ‘What can I do to work in solar energy or work as an environmental lawyer [but] without having to go through all the math and science?’” Forrester says.

In addition to listening to student requests, Forrester says she spoke with employers and activists in the environmental sector, asking if there was a demand for people not trained in the sciences.

“[They said] what they needed were people who could write and argue and think well,” she says.

Forrester adds that there has also been a push from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office for colleges to add more environmentally oriented classes and programs.

At present, the new program has passed its “second reading,” according to Vice President of Instruction Mary Turner, and must undergo one more step in the approval process before it can be added to the City College catalog.

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Courses within the program include basic biology and math classes, such as biology’s “Natural History” and mathematics’ “Intro to Statistics.” Other classes are more specifically related to the environment — “Environmental Philosophy,” for example, a course that Forrester created at City College. The program also includes sociology’s “Social Problems” and economics’ “Principles of Microeconomics,” which Forrester says are designed to give students a wide scope of the issues involving the environment.

One course being added to the catalog specifically for this new degree program is English Literature 328: “Literature and the Environment.” It will focus on literature written about the environment and how humans relate to the land, with a focus on U.S. writers.

This course was developed by Professor Jeff Knorr, also the poet laureate of the city of Sacramento. He says he had already been thinking of adding it to the catalog, but hadn’t had the time or reason to implement it until Forrester approached him about the Environmental Literacy degree program.

“It seemed like a natural pairing,” Knorr says.

Knorr, who originally started attending college as a biology major, says he would have done things differently if this program had existed then.

“If there was a program that I knew of back when I was in college, I would have gone straight out of the hard-science biology into that. [It] just wasn’t available at the time,” he says.

The Literature and the Environment course has already been approved and will likely be added to the catalog during the 2016-17 academic year. The Environmental Literacy degree program is still awaiting approval by the CCCCO, which is a process Vice President of Instruction Marry Turner says can take six months on average. If approved by July 2016, it could be added to the catalog as soon as next fall.

“I think it’s a really great opportunity for people to become involved in what’s going to be the most pressing issue of the future,” Forrester says of the need for such a degree program. “It already is. It’s upon us — global warming and pollution and too many people — all those things. We want to be able to discuss and argue about these positions in a reasonable, well-researched way.

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