‘A Bee, a Tree, What’s In It For Me?’ Class examines environmental policy

Morgan Kelly ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

Climate change expert Michael Oppenheimer and ecologist David Wilcove, both affiliated with the Princeton Environmental Institute, teamed up to explore a range of environmental concerns through a policy lens in the spring course “The Environment: Science and Policy.”

This spring, Professors Michael Oppenheimer (left) and David Wilcove (right) teamed up to examine a number of environmental concerns — from rising seas to air pollution to deforestation to natural disasters — from a policy lens in the course “The Environment: Science and Policy.” The course is an elective in a list of science-policy classes required for all undergraduate majors in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. (Photo by Egan Jimenez, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs)

On a morning in March, Professor Michael Oppenheimer pointed to a photograph he took while flying over the North Pole.

A mosaic of fragmented ice stretched across the projection screen. The blue-green sea of the central Arctic Ocean flowed to the surface, visible between small and large pieces of ice. Once a thick, solid ice sheet, the expansive ice was fractured thanks to rising global temperatures.

“How do we know humans are responsible for these changes?” Oppenheimer, one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change, asked a class of 140 undergraduate students at Princeton University with interests in science, public policy and law.

In the spring course “The Environment: Science and Policy,” Oppenheimer teamed up with ecology expert David Wilcove to examine a number of environmental concerns — from warming seas to air pollution to deforestation to natural disasters — through a policy lens.

The course is an elective in a list of science-policy classes required for all undergraduate majors in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. For some students, it’s the first time they’ve explored science policy, taking a deep dive into trade agreements and international treaties related to the environment.