by Mary Ellen Butler
From Architecture--er, the College of Environmental Design--to Zoology--oops, make that the Department of Integrative Biology--environmental courses have multiplied across campus like wild grasses, nurtured by the worldwide movement to protect and wisely use our natural resources.
Until recently, however, students interested in taking courses or majoring in some area of environmental studies had to hunt and peck through the huge Berkeley course catalog to figure out what was being offered. Nor did professors in one department or college always know what colleagues in other areas were up to.
But now there's a new aide at hand that makes that search infinitely easier. A handsome booklet titled "Enviro-Studies: A Guide to Environmental Studies at UC Berkeley" takes much of the guesswork out of who's teaching what to whom.
Prepared by two student interns, Aaron Gach and Winnie Lau, the 44-page publication cross references hundreds of courses by major, by department, and by subject matter.
The guide is one of several initiatives taken by the newly formed Environmental Council, a broadly based group of faculty members engaged in environmental and natural-resource teaching, research, and public service.
The council, until now a faculty-organized working group, has just been made official by the Academic Planning Board. Carol Christ, vice chancellor and provost, has charged the council with developing, implementing, integrating, and coordinating academic programs in environmental areas "in order to achieve and maintain a leadership role appropriate to the Berkeley campus."
The working group, an informal gathering sometimes reaching 60 in number, had been unofficially hard at work for a year and a half doing just that. It has been holding meetings, sponsoring colloquia, and looking for ways to coordinate environmental teaching efforts across traditional academic and administrative lines.
"There is a lot going on here at Berkeley, but it was so atomized, so dispersed, that no one had a complete handle on it," says Jeffrey Romm, professor of international wildlife policy and forestry, and the group's convenor. "We decided to try to find out what our common interests were across the width and breadth of the campus."
Last March, the working group organized an all-day symposium to explore how they might work together. "About 60 people showed up on a Saturday morning," recalls Romm, "and both Chancellor Tien and Vice Chancellor and Provost Christ came."
Later, the chancellor's office allocated $20,000 and the School of Engineering another $20,000 to the council working group. The money enabled it to employ the interns, to present monthly colloquia, and to plan for its continuing status.
Right now, environmental programs leading to a degree cluster primarily under the broad umbrellas of environmental science, environmental engineering and applied science, environmental design and resources management, integrated science, technology and policy, and society, culture, and the environment.
But the number and variety of courses that include some aspect of environmental studies is daunting. Under the society, culture, and environment category alone, for example, courses are taught in business, comparative literature, ethnic studies, history, law, linguistics, philosophy, public health, social welfare, sociology and women's studies.
The council is not trying to get departments or programs to consolidate, Romm cautions. In keeping with the way the Berkeley campus traditionally operates, he says, the council wants to be "an arena that facilitates--not a structure that controls."
One of its primary purposes is to "seek some framework under which to operate so that students know where to start," Romm says.
Another is to encourage faculty to collaborate across turf lines to compete for federal research funding from a position of unified strength.
That's why the council's charge says that its members "should not consider themselves to be representatives of their departments, but rather of the community of environmental and resource fields on the Berkeley campus."
As one of the first visible results of that collaboration, copies of the enviro-studies booklet are available for $1 at the ASUC Book Store.