NEC Courses

Course experiences connected to A new Earth conversation create a distinctive space of student inquiry and engagement at Clark. While grappling with the challenges posed by climate change, students in Collaborative and Affiliated courses are able to deepen their collective insight and understanding, creating the possibility of collaboration and action.

Past Collaboratives

Collaboratives embody a fundamental process of the NEC. Collaborative students start the semester by meeting together in the Council on the Uncertain Human Future. From this foundation, they go on to consider the topic issue of the Collaborative, allowing the concerns and questions of the group to emerge. Through deep dialogue and inquiry, these interdisciplinary courses cultivate creative exchange on campus through horizontal relationship building between faculty and students, and a process of collective knowledge production.


ID 294/IDCE 395 Culture Environment and Development  |  Cynthia Caron

Two key premises animate this course: first, humans are part of nature as each society exists within the natural world, and second, environmental problems are social problems as they concern human relations with the natural world and the politics of resource access, use and control. Gender is a constitutive element of these relationships and a signifier of power. As conceptualizations of nature and of women (or gender roles) mutually constitute and re-enforce one another, we will employ frameworks such as feminist political ecology, ecofeminism, and ecological masculinities to analyze issues at the culture-environment-development intersection. We will explore how masculinities and femininities shape human relationships with nature and distributive equity issues associated with environmental / climate change. The readings and materials in this course are global in nature to allow us to compare similarities and differences in gendered relationships to the environment, activist pursuits, and access to resources.


EN 242 / IDCE 332 Sustainable Development Assessment and Planning  |  Timothy Downs

Explores ecology and the social and physical geography of cities as systems built and inhabited by people, and constantly changed by social, biological and physical processes.

We confront one of the most pressing issues of our time: How can society transition to more sustainable development (SD)? Specifically: How can diverse social groups work in concert to vision a sustainable future, assess existing development, compare the impacts – economic, social, political, cultural and ecological – of alternative development pathways, and move towards more sustainable development? Our responses to SD challenges/opportunities require a synthesis of social and technical approaches in ways rarely seen: a) a dialogue-enabled multi-stakeholder assessment and planning process at the core; b) integrative information/communication and education technologies; c) multi-issue/multi-sector integration models (e.g. water * health * energy * food etc.); and d) ways to navigate inherent complexity, including the political context and the mitigation of corruption. The goal of the class is: to help students think about, design and consider the deployment of 2nd generation sustainable development projects. Case studies are used extensively for discussions, and simulations provide practice and insight. The course includes a major SDA&P Team Project Practicum based on either a domestic development case study or an international one (previous cases include the Cape Cod Wind Farm, the Three Gorges Dam in China, a mining project slated for Indonesia). Students work in their SDA&P Team to do three things: a) critically analyze how positive and negative impacts have been estimated (on what basis), also considering their spatial distribution; b) articulate the socio-economic, political, cultural and ecological contexts of the proposal, incl. the power dynamics; and c) design an improved socio-technical SDA&P process.


GEOG 386 Energy Geographies  |  James McCarthy

Energy policy is climate policy: we cannot hope to address the climate crisis unless we can understand how our energy systems evolved and function, and plan and enact transitions to profoundly different energy systems. Doing both requires us to look with fresh eyes at nearly every aspect, at every scale, of the geographies we create and inhabit. This seminar will examine the rapidly changing geographies of energy production, distribution, and consumption, with particular attention to their roles in larger patterns of political, economic, and cultural development and change. In particular, we will examine the development and distinctive characteristics of fossil fuel capitalism; the political and economic implications and potential of transitions to renewable energy systems; the geopolitics of energy systems and transitions; the creation and effects of landscapes built around particular energy systems; and the relationships between energy systems and social identities. We will pay particular attention to the question of whether and how transitions towards renewable, low or net-zero carbon energy systems might contribute to movement towards a more just and equitable society – what has sometimes been termed a “just transition.


GEOG 018 Environment and Development in the Global South | Helen Rosko

“Development” is an international mandate for addressing structural inequality between the Global North and South. However, many institutions, private entities, NGOs and governments equate development with capitalist economic growth. The equation of capitalist growth with development has deepened global inequality and helps fuel global environmental crises. With the expansion of consumerism, the globalization of trade and travel and a world-wide dependency on fossil fuels, countries in the Global South not only have to navigate their own colonial legacies within an unequal world system but also the worst effects of climate change and widespread environmental degradation. This course will address the fundamental contradictions between economy and the environment that are at the heart of the world system. It will ask if it is possible to reclaim and refigure “development” to create a new platform for addressing global economic inequality and environmental health simultaneously. In this course we will read introductory texts on development and global environmental issues from geography and the social sciences, with special focus on the interdisciplinary subfields of critical development studies and political ecology.


PHYS 243 / 343 Technology of Renewable Energy | Charles Agosta

This course is designed to give an overview of the technical issues confronting the conversion of the world’s fossil fuel economy to one where the major sources of energy are sustainable. The pros and cons of major renewable energy sources (such as solar and wind) will be discussed, along with some of the less universal sources such as tides and geothermal, including, of course, efficiency, the hidden energy resource. No discussion of renewables is complete without a good understanding of the electrical grid, which is central to the implementation of renewable energy. The present grid is designed for a smaller number of large generating stations and relatively constant power generation and loads. The renewable grid will have many smaller energy sources, as small as single solar panels on the top of telephone poles, and also rapidly fluctuating sources, as when winds gust through wind turbines, and clouds cover and uncover solar panels. Through lecture and demonstration we will learn how a nationwide energy network might work in the future. This course is designed for science and non-science majors alike, however math skills including algebra and trigonometry will be expected. Over the past two years a small microgrid consisting of solar panels, a wind turbine, batteries, and LED lights has been built at Clark. A main focus of this course will be on the design and building of the microgrid, and related projects and issues. This will require significant time, outside class, to work on building the microgrid system. We will be building physical systems, such as mounting solar panels and working to connect electrical systems, in order to control and measure the energy flows in our microgrid. We will need computer programs for controlling the system and to analyze data, and we also will need web pages for our own monitoring and in order to display the system to others. There will be a significant hands on component to this class, in addition to regular homework assignments. Each student will be expected to spend about three hours a week during an afternoon, preferably Tuesday or Friday, working on the project. Please consider this time commitment carefully when you sign up for this course.


GEOG 378 Emerging Issues in Climate Change Science | Karen Frey

This seminar examines emerging issues surrounding global climate change and Earth System Science. Climate Change Science is inherently interdisciplinary and processes within this field involve significant interactions between land, atmosphere, ocean, ice, and humans. Specific topics discussed in this seminar include abrupt climate change, biogeochemical cycling, biocomplexity, oscillatory climate phenomena, trace gas exchange, glacier/ice sheet dynamics, sea ice variability, sea level rise, paleoclimate, extreme weather events, and human-induced environmental change. Readings will be focused on the most recent climate literature, including the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports. This seminar not only introduces students to recent, cutting-edge research, but given the sometimes controversial nature of these issues also gives students insight into the process of critically evaluating Climate Change Science studies. Open to doctoral students, but masters students may request permission to enroll.

Affiliated Courses

Affiliated Courses provide another interdisciplinary opportunity for students to engage in reflection on the climate crisis. While more traditional in their structure, these courses may integrate Listening in Nature experiences, NEC programs, and the Council on the Uncertain Human Future as part of their offerings. 

Past Courses

Spring 2022 Collaborative Courses

  • ENG 256 / 356 Ecologies in Crisis Stephen Levin
  • GEOG 280 / 380 Urban Ecolog Rinku Roy Chowdhury
  • ID 207 / IDCE 30701 Beyond the Population BombEllen Foley
  • ID 234 / IDCE 30334 NEC Council Collaborative Walter Wright
  • ID 254 / IDCE 30154 Mega Development: Exploring the nexus between natural resource extraction, infrastructure development and environmentDenise Humphreys Bebbington

Spring 2022 Affiliated Courses

  • EN 267 / IDCE 367 Climate Change Adaptation Edward Carr
  • ES 1970 Sustainability and the Sacred Rachael Shea

Spring 2021 Collaborative Courses

  • EN 228 / IDCE 328 Food Security and Climate Change Morgan Ruelle
  • GEOG 259 / 359 Global Change‚ Food and Farming Systems Rinku Roy Chowdhury
  • ID 234 / IDCE 30334 NEC Council CollaborativeWalter Wright and Sarah Buie
  • IDCE 365 Cities‚ Regions‚ Climate Change & Health Tim Downs
  • PHYS 243 / 343 Technology of Renewable EnergyCharles Agosta

Spring 2021 Affiliated Courses

  • EN 207 / IDCE 30205 Climate Change, Energy and DevelopmentElisabeth Gilmore
  • EN 242 / IDCE 332  Sustainable Development Assessment and Planning Tim Downs
  • EN 251 / IDCE 351 Global Environmental Issues: Science, Technology and PolicyElisabeth Gilmore
  • PECO 101 Introduction to Peace Studies Jude Fernando
  • PSCI 157 US Environmental Politics Edward Cohen

Fall 2020 Collaborative Courses

  • EN 217 / IDCE 30117 Place-Based Ecological KnowledgeMorgan Ruelle
  • GEOG 106 Water and the City: A Socio-Hydrology of Worcester and its EnvironsRinku Roy Chowdhury
  • GEOG 378 Emerging Issues in Climate Change ScienceKaren Frey
  • ID 220 Critical Pedagogy for Social and Environmental Justice: Liberal Arts Education in PracticeJude Fernando
  • ID 234 / IDCE 30334 NEC Council CollaborativeWalter Wright and Sarah Buie
  • ID 254 / IDCE 30154 Mega Development: Exploring the nexus between natural resource extraction infrastructure development and environmentDenise Humphreys Bebbington

Fall 2020 Affiliated Courses

  • ARTS 162 Exploring the Natural World: Seeding Artistic Process with Drawing and Mixed Media Valerie Claff
  • BIOL 114 Marine Biology Deborah Robertson
  • EN 101 Environmental Science and Policy Morgan Ruelle
  • EN 120 Discovering Environmental Science Timothy Downs
  • ENG 102 From Cli-Fi to Frankenstein: Reading and Writing Climate Narrative Michael Carolan
  • ENG 202 Imagining Place: Writing Health, Science and the Environment Michael Carolan
  • ES 1970 Sustainability and the Sacred Rachael Shea
  • IDCE 30287 Fundamentals of Environmental Science Timothy Downs
  • GEOG 119 Arctic in the Anthropocene Karen Frey
  • GEOG 389 Conservation GISFlorencia Sangermano
  • MUSC 125 Musical Acoustics Matt Malsky
  • PHIL 124 Philosophy of Death — Wes DeMarco

Spring 2020 Collaborative Courses

  • ARTS 133 Painting II: States of BeingAmy Wynne
  • EN 228 / IDCE 328 Food Security and Climate ChangeMorgan Ruelle
  • EN 242 / IDCE 332 Sustainable Development Assessment and PlanningTimothy Downs
  • ENG 111 Creative Writing: NonfictionMichael Carolan
  • ES 1970 Sustainability and the Sacred (SPS) Rachael Shea
  • ID 221 / IDCE 30121 Food Systems: Place Politics and Policy Ramon Borges-Mendez
  • ID 234 / IDCE 30334 NEC Council CollaborativeWalter Wright and Sarah Buie
  • IDCE 365 Cities, Regions, Climate Change and HealthTimothy Downs
  • PSTD 101 Introduction to Peace StudiesJude Fernando

Spring 2020 Affiliated Courses

  • EN 217 Place-Based Ecological Knowledge — Morgan Ruelle
  • ENG 275 / 375 Fictions of Empire: Studies in Global English Literature  (Spring 2020: Literature and the Climate Crisis in Global Perspective) — Steve Levin 
  • GEOG 201 / 301 Taste, Culture, Power: Historical Geographies of Food Youjin Chung
  • GEOG 220 Property and the Global Environment James McCarthy
  • GEOG 263 The Climate System and Global Environmental Change Karen Frey
  • GEOG 280 / 380 Urban Ecology: Cities as Ecosystems Rinku Roy Chowdhury
  • GEOG 286 Geographies of Poverty and Inequality Jessa Loomis
  • GEOG 386 Political Ecologies of the Anthropocene James McCarthy
  • IDCE 343 Understanding and Responding to the Migrant / Refugee ChallengeTimothy Downs and Anita Fabos
  • PHIL 131 Environmental EthicsPatrick Derr

Fall 2019 Collaborative Courses

  • GEOG 119 The Arctic in the Anthropocene — Karen Frey
  • GEOG 196 Development and Environment in Latin America: Difficult Questions, Creative Responses — Anthony Bebbington
  • ID 220 Critical Pedagogy for Social and Environmental Justice: Liberal Arts Education in Practice —Jude Fernando
  • ID 234 / IDCE 30334 Climate Praxis: Reflection and Action for the Unthinkable — Tim DeChristopher
  • ID 254 / IDCE 30154 Mega Development: Exploring the nexus between natural resource extraction, infrastructure development and environment — Denise Humphreys Bebbington
  • IDCE 395 / ID 294 Culture, Environment and Development — Cynthia Caron
  • IDND 052 Writing: Sense of Place — Jessica Bane-Robert
  • PHYS 243 / PHYS 343 Technologies of Renewable Energy — Chuck Agosta

Fall 2019 Affiliated Courses

  • ARTS 150 Art and MeditationAmy Wynne
  • ASTR 001 Exploring the UniverseCharles Agosta
  • EN 101 Environmental Science and Policy: Introductory Case StudiesMorgan Ruelle
  • EN 120 Discovering Environmental ScienceTimothy Downs
  • GEOG 017 Environment and SocietyJames McCarthy
  • GEOG 136 Gender and EnvironmentYoujin Chung
  • ID 207 Beyond the Population BombEllen Foley
  • IDCE 30118 Science Meets Policy in Real WorldMorgan Ruelle
  • IDCE 358 AD TP: International Climate NegotiationsElisabeth Gilmore
  • PHIL 100 The Good LifeCharles DeMarco

Spring 2019 Collaborative Courses

  • EN 217 / IDCE 30117  Place-Based Ecological KnowledgeMorgan Ruelle
  • IDND 297 NEC Council CollaborativeWalter Wright and Sarah Buie

Fall 2018 Collaborative Courses

  • ENG 256 / 356  Ecologies in Crisis: Views from the Humanities Steve Levin
  • PHYS 343 Technology of Renewable EnergyChuck Agosta