Climate in the classroom

Don't know much biology? You will. Even social sciences are getting injected with environmentalism's hard facts.

Higher educators nationwide describe an exploding interest in environmental issues from students of all majors–including those who aren't gearing up for careers as scientists, engineers, or resource managers.

Curricula are changing in response, with more entry-level environmental courses designed for nonmajors, and formalized sustainability departments tying together everything from economics to fine art.

Carlson went on to help her professor grow a small composting project of his into a campus-wide effort. She was driven by her passion for philosophy: "What I'm particularly interested in," she says, "is the ethical angle of sustainability, getting people to make the right choices."

Carlson's experience is typical of what's happening all over the country: In the age of climate change, students and faculty are demanding an interdisciplinary approach that recasts old definitions of the environmental sciences, says Cully Nordby, academic director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sutainability.

Nordby is part of a campaign to create a School of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA, which would offer degrees to students tackling environmental challenges from almost infinite angles. Her challenge has been to convince administration brass to punch holes in the walls between departments. And she's seeing barriers start to crumble. The number of sustainability degree programs offered nationwide jumped by an astounding 984 percent between 2008 and 2012, from 13 to 141. And though the U.S. Department of Education recognized "sustainability studies" as a field only in 2010, degrees related to the environment accounted for more than 9 percent of college diplomas in 2011, marking a 10-year high for a trend that's grown annually since 2004.

To read the full article by Tim McDonnell click here