Roanoke College

INQ Courses with Environmental Topics



Some of the courses listed here are offered in alternate years. For a listing of courses currently offered, please consult courses offered list and the academic catalog.

Intellectual Inquiry (INQ) courses satisfy General Education requirements.  They do not satisfy requirements in the Environmental Studies programs but these environmentally-related topics may be of interest to students.


Intellectual Inquiry (INQ)

INQ 110: Intellectual Inquiry - People and the Planet. How have we changed the Earth and our environment? How has the environment influenced us? In this course, we will explore both directions of impact: humans on the environment and the environment on humans. Global warming will be considered in detail, but we will also explore the interactions between humans and their environment more generally, drawing examples from long ago and today. Students will learn some basic science related to environmental issues and also examine the economic, political, social, and ethical considerations involved.

INQ 110: Intellectual Inquiry - The World of Tomorrow. The course examines the presentation of societal concerns, debates, and aspirations in the literary genres of science fiction and fantasy. A social scientific lens is employed to critically analyze the characterization of the ideal society in literature. While exploring dystopic descriptions in fiction, the course examines potential remedies or solutions to contemporary social problems. A purposeful exploration of both literary and scholarly works will allow students the opportunity to reflect on their own assumptions about human nature and think about the direction of society.

INQ 110: Reading the Landscape: Exploring "Sense of Place". We have lifelong interaction with the landscape-we conduct our daily lives in it, we seek both the familiar and the exotic in it, and it holds our memories and reveals our values-yet these relationships often go unexamined. What does it means to know a place? How can we study or "read" it? Does place shape us or do we shape it? How does place change over time? This course will focus on an inherently interdisciplinary topic, "sense of place," using a variety of methods (verbal, physical, visual, etc.) and approaches (literature, history, geography, visual art, etc.) in an effort to comprehend a difficult but powerful subject. Our critical investigation of place/landscape may include the dynamics of insider/outsider, subjectivity/objectivity, and real/ideal-themes that are both personal and universal. By learning to read the landscape, we will better understand our place in it. Use your eyes, be curious, seek answers.

INQ 120: Thinking Animals. Our inquiry will focus on the moral status of non-human animals, examining how scientific knowledge influences the formation of values. During the scientific revolution in Western civilization, animals "lost their minds" as scholars solidified a view of non-human animals as machine-like. We will examine how scientific understanding of animal behavior has progressed, reading studies of problem-solving, symbolic communication, moral decision-making, emotion, and cultural transmission of behavior in honey bees, birds, dolphins, dogs, elephants, chimpanzees, and more. We will consider the ways in which knowledge from these studies might impact our ethical reasoning about animals used for food, companionship, entertainment, research, and security. What other aspects of human culture play strong roles-stronger than science-in determining our relationships with animals? What is the relationship between animal rights/welfare and ethical reasoning regarding environmental conservation? In living an examined life, how do we balance our responsibilities to persons, animals, and environment?

INQ 120: 2015: Ten Billion.  By 2050, ten billion people may inhabit the Earth, all needing access to essential but limited resources, such as water, food, and medicine.  Unfortunately, not all of those people will have equal access to these resources, as they are not distributed evenly around the planet.  In this section of INQ 120, we will ask the question - given these facts - "Can ten billion people live 'good lives' when resources are limited?"

INQ 120: Human/Nature: Person, Place, Story.  "Human versus nature": this is the traditional formulation of one of the central themes addressed in literary works. The phrasing suggests that the essential character of the relationship between human beings and the natural world is one of conflict. But is the shorthand "human versus nature" an accurate representation of all the ways writers have understood and represented their own and others' relationship to nature? We will read various "nature writers" and philosophers whose texts chronicle and contemplate different human/nature relationships in order to reflect on our own beliefs and ideas about place, nature, and environment. What do we mean by "nature"? Is it possible for humans to live in concert with the natural world, or is conflict inevitable? What values should guide our relationship with the world around us, and what role do story and symbol play in exploring, cataloging and re(creating) our changing relationships with the natural world?

INQ 251: Resources and Risks: Humans and the Physical Environment. We live on a finite planet.  Many of the environmental problems that we currently face arise from the interaction between two complex but interdependent systems:  the human ecosystem and the physical resources that sustain it.  This course draws upon the earth and biological sciences to explore interactions between humans and the physical environment, with an emphasis on the natural and human forces that shape features and processes at the earth's surface.  Students will use spatial and aspatial datasets (e.g., digital maps, Google Earth, computer simulations, and the Internet) to critically evaluate (1) how the physical environment both supports and constrains human activity, (2) how these human activities, in turn, impact natural processes occurring at the earth's surface, and (3) how we might begin to manage the earth's systems to meet our own needs without compromising those of future generations. (1) Lecture: 3hr/wk. Prerequisite: INQ 250

INQ 251: Energy at the Crossroads. This specific course is an exploration of how we as a culture both use and manage Energy flows. We will inquire specifically into the concept of "energy crisis" and what that may mean or imply. The course is designed to address technical language (i.e. watts, joules, kilowatt-hours, and the like) and policy topics. The first portion of the course addresses past and present technologies, particularly in transportation and electrical generation. The second portion of the class will specifically delve into present and future initiatives and technologies, applying current approached of guided active student learning and presentation, using technical thesis and support strategies.

INQ 270: Myth, Philosophy, and Nature.  This course will look at different ways in which people have approached the natural world, ranging from mythological accounts of the world and its origins to rationalistic attempts to understand natural processes in early Greek philosophy and in the tradition of thought it inspired.  We will consider what mythological approaches to the world have in common with more rationalistic approaches developed in the western world, and how they differ, as well as ways in which contemporary understandings of the world differ from views articulated in earlier modes of thought. (1) 3hr/wk.

INQ 270: Animals in the Humanities. This is a course on the history, philosophy, and religious culture of animals. It examines how human society has been inseparably involved with animals-dependent on, fascinated with, horrified by, lord and master over, contemplative of, and caring for them. Animals have been workers, food, provided amusement, and been test subjects for experiments. Without the help of animals-from the earthworm to the elephant and horse-human civilization is unthinkable. But the humanities would also be unthinkable: animals have been always present in our reflections on the human condition. The study of how animals have become part of culture raises important theoretical questions about what constitutes the human-ities. The class will explore questions such as, how have animals been conceived of, represented, treated, and cared for? Are humans animals? Are animals capable of virtue? Do they have intelligence? Do they feel pain? Can animals participate in the forms of salvation articulated by the world's religions?

INQ 300: The American Dream: Where do we go from here? Can we all live the American Dream? What is the American Dream? Who invented it? How have we come to view it? Is it still a viable dream? What changes might we need to make to it? This course seeks to answer these questions during the first few weeks of the course. Students will research the limits of consumption, learn about sustainable organizations and develop a viable plan for the American Dream for the 21st Century.

INQ 300: The End of the World as We Know It. Across this country a growing number of Americans are preparing themselves for a catastrophic apocalypse. For reasons ranging from terrorist attacks to natural disasters or an economic meltdown, these individuals have been taking survival courses, constructing safe rooms and shelters, and stockpiling canned goods in preparation for the end of the world as we know it. Are their fears founded in fact or fantasy? Does the scientific data support the likelihood of an event occurring? Are there preparations we can take to ensure our survival if it does occur? In this course you will investigate a potential catastrophic event and the underlying science and technology, assess the level of threat based on all available evidence, and develop an action plan with persuasive arguments to advise others of the apparent danger and how to prepare and respond to the event.