The Program on Global Environment offers courses in Environmental and Urban Studies that appeal to  students in all majors. The courses explore the systematic processes and formal and informal relationships of humans to built and natural environments in cities across the globe. See below for our ENST course offerings in Spring 2022.

See our full list of approved ENST courses.


Spring Quarter 2022

Sustainable Urban Development

Evan Carver
Tu/Th, 9:30–10:50am
ENST 20150


The course covers concepts and methods of sustainable urbanism, livable cities, resiliency, and smart growth principles from a social, environmental and economic perspective. In this course we examine how the development in and of cities—in the US and around the world—can be sustainable, especially given predictions of a future characterized by increasing environmental and social volatility. We begin by critiquing definitions of sustainability. The fundamental orientation of the course will be understanding cities as complex socio-natural systems, and so we will look at approaches to sustainability grouped around several of the most important component systems: climate, energy, transportation, and water. With the understanding that sustainability has no meaning if it excludes human life, perspectives from both the social sciences and humanities are woven throughout: stewardship and environmental ethics are as important as technological solutions and policy measures. 

Cities on Screen

Evan Carver
Tu, 3:30–4:50pm / Th, 3:30–6:20pm
ENST 20160


How do the movies shape our collective imagination about cities? Why do we so often turn to them for visions of disaster and dystopia, on the one hand, or a futuristic utopia on the other? How has film responded to cities in the past, and how can it help investigate our present urban condition? How can film be understood as a tool for exploring what a city is? In this seminar, we will watch and discuss feature films in which the built environment or urban issues play important roles. Students will improve their film literacy—learning not just what a film does but how it does it—and understand applications for film in the analysis of social, spatial, temporal, and immersive phenomena, as well as how it can help inspire and communicate design more effectively.

Human Impact on the Global Environment

Alison Anastasio
Tu/Th, 12:30–1:50pm
ENST 21201


The goal of this survey course is to analyze the impact of the human enterprise on the world that sustains it. Topics include human population dynamics and historical trends in global impact, with most of the course focusing on how humans have altered the Earth system through a variety of processes (including climate change, air, water, nutrient cycling, pollution/novel entities, biodiversity, and land use). We read and discuss diverse sources, write short analytical papers, and a final argument-based research paper. 

Introduction to Critical Spatial Media: Visualizing Urban, Environmental, and Planetary Change

Alexander Arroyo & Grga Basic
Tu/Th, 2:00–3:20pm
ENST 23517


This course introduces critical theories and techniques for visualizing interconnected transformations of urban, environmental, and planetary systems amidst the pressures of climate change, urbanization, and global economies of capitalism. Weekly lectures will introduce major themes and theoretical debates, paired with hands-on lab tutorials exploring a selection of methods in conventional and experimental geographic visualization. Thematically, the course will be organized around critical interpretations of the Anthropocene, a concept designating the epoch in which anthropogenic activities are recognized as the dominant force of planetary climatic and ecological change. We will present these interpretations through modules structured around different conceptual paradigms and alternative epochal designations (e.g. the Urbanocene, the Capitalocene, the Plantationocene). Through weekly lab exercises and a final, synthetic project, the course will move from critically analyzing prevalent theoretical frameworks, geospatial data, and associated visualization techniques to creatively visualizing critical alternatives. Students will learn how to construct visual narratives through a variety of spatial media (e.g. maps, diagrams, visual timelines), scales (e.g. bodies, neighborhoods, landscapes, the planetary), and techniques/platforms (e.g. GIS, web mapping, basic programming language tools, and vector/raster visualization programs). 

Environmental Politics

Ray Lodato
Tu/Th, 9:30–10:50am
ENST 24102


Politics determines not only what particular faction holds power, but the parameters upon which contests for power are conducted. Competing political factions may diverge in the details of the policies they favor, but may agree on a central organizing principle upon which their policy differences are contested. This course acknowledges that such principles exist and structure politics, economics, and social arrangements, but also challenges the notion that these are immutable, and argues that other principles could be substituted which would drastically change these arrangements. The course introduces students to alternative theories of economics, politics, and environmental policy that challenge mainstream notions of what is acceptable under the current structural and institutional constraints, including how the retreat to notions of realism and practicality place limits on changes necessary to preserve and protect the natural environment.

Chicago's Agricultural Hinterlands

Sandy Hunter
Tu/Th, 11:00am–12:20pm
ENST 25423


Chicago was built by the laborers who drained lakeside swamps to create its neighborhoods, the immigrants who worked in its factories and slaughterhouses, and the business magnates that boosted the construction of a prairie metropolis on the ancestral lands of the Three Fires Confederacy. But, in as much as Chicago was built by these people, it was also built by farmers scattered across the Midwest. For that matter, the city is a product of the hogs, wheat, cattle, and corn raised by those settlers, and the capital that flowed from city to farm and back again. This class examines the historical development and contemporary consolidation of agricultural production on the prairie surrounding Chicago. We begin with the city’s founding and growth, consider how the it became “hog-butcher to the world,” examine 20th century shifts in agricultural production as the “American Heartland” consolidated, and analyze contemporary industrialized agriculture in the Midwest, to ask how changes in the ways agricultural products like corn, wheat, hogs, and soy are produced continue to shape the city and its rural hinterland. This course introduces students to Chicago studies, the anthropology and history of rural America, and agrarian and urban studies. 

Historic Preservation Studio

Emily Talen
Mo/We, 4:30–5:50pm
ENST 26008


This course is an introduction to the preservation of the built environment. What are the benefits of preserving historic resources? Students will conduct studies of historic buildings in Chicago, exploring their cultural significance and impact on neighborhoods, and applying preservation tools and methods to formulate policies to advance preservation goals. We will also debate preservation’s role in addressing climate change and its role in advancing social goals, such as maintaining neighborhood diversity. Through readings, archival research, mapping, field visits, and interaction with professionals in the field, we will consider the possibilities of leveraging historic preservation to advance social, economic, and environmental goals. 

Urban Design with Nature

Sabina Shaikh & Emily Talen
We, 12:30–3:20pm
ENST 27155


This course will use the Chicago region as the setting to evaluate the social, environmental, and economic effects of alternative forms of human settlement. Students will examine the history, theory and practice of designing cities in sustainable ways – i.e., human settlements that are socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sound. Students will explore the literature on sustainable urban design from a variety of perspectives, and then focus on how sustainability theories play out in the Chicago region. How can Chicago’s neighborhoods be designed to promote environmental, social, and economic sustainability goals? This course is part of the College Course Cluster program: Urban Design. 

Calumet Courses

Spring 2022

people walking into a forest

Environmental Justice in the Calumet

Ray Lodato
Tuesdays, 2:00–4:50pm
ENST 26365


As part of the Calumet Quarter, the Environmental Justice practicum will allow students to engage in research on an issue of environmental justice in the Calumet region. The class will partner with a local community organization to identify and study an environmental concern that disproportionately affects people of color in the area, by learning and implementing research methods in the pursuit of a final project that is presented to the community organization. Among the research methods to be employed will be key informant interviews and a general population survey. Students will be responsible for drafting and revising the survey instruments according to established survey research methods. Students will be expected to work collaboratively both with other students and members of the community in order to be maximally responsive to the needs of local residents.

Urban Ecology in the Calumet Region

Alison Anastasio
Wednesdays, 12:30–4:20pm
ENST 27325


This course will give students a strong foundation in the local ecology of the Calumet. Students will use local research and habitats to understand fundamental concepts in ecology and the scientific method. Students will explore some of these habitats during field trips with scientists and practitioners. The course focus will be on urban ecology in the region, whether these fundamental ecological concepts are applicable, what other factors need to be considered in the urban ecosystem, and the role humans have in restoring natural and managing novel ecosystems, among other topics.

Planning for Land and Life in the Calumet

Community-based Practitioner (TBA)
Thursdays, 3:30–6:20pm
ENST 26366


The collaborative plan to create a Calumet National Heritage Area that touches aspects of environmental conservation, economic development, cultural heritage, recreation, arts, and education will ground this course’s exploration of landscape history and landscape planning in the Calumet region. Students will investigate this planning process and its relationship to other local and regional plans. A strong focus of the course is on the opportunities and challenges this complex and richly textured industrial region faces in its transition to a more sustainable future.