From declining fisheries to acute urban pollution to record-breaking global temperatures, the evidence of human impact on the environment continues to mount. And at the same time, the environment shapes us, as human society and institutions are built upon our connection to the weather, land, water, and other species. What can we learn from ecological systems and cycles? What are the right solutions to our urgent environmental challenges?
MIT scholars, students and alumni are working to understand and help us make progress toward a more sustainable and just world. This core mission draws upon all of the fields represented at MIT: not just science, engineering, and technology, but also the humanities, arts, economics, history, architecture, urban planning, management, policy, and more. Use OCW materials from across these fields to expand your horizons and learn more about our evolving relationship with the environment.
OCW’s Environment Courses list is inspired by two interdisciplinary MIT programs. Many of the list’s undergraduate courses fall within the undergraduate Environment and Sustainability Minor devised by MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), and the OCW course list employs the undergraduate minor’s four topic pillars. Many of the list’s graduate-level courses are part of the MIT Sloan School of Management Sustainability Certificate curriculum.
Begin your exploration with these highlights from OCW’s collection of over 160 Environment courses.
Earth Systems and Climate Science
12.009J Theoretical Environmental Analysis
This course analyzes cooperative processes that shape the natural environment, now and in the geologic past. It emphasizes the development of theoretical models that relate the physical and biological worlds, the comparison of theory to observational data, and associated mathematical methods.
12.340 Global Warming Science
This course provides students with a scientific foundation of anthropogenic climate change and an introduction to climate models. It focuses on fundamental physical processes that shape climate (e.g. solar variability, orbital mechanics, greenhouse gases, atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and volcanic and soil aerosols) and on evidence for past and present climate change. The course considers material consequences of climate change, including sea level change, variations in precipitation, vegetation, storminess, and the incidence of disease, and also examines the science behind mitigation and adaptation proposals.
Engineering for Sustainability
EC.716 D-Lab: Waste
This introductory course takes a multidisciplinary approach to managing waste in low- and middle-income countries, with strategies that diminish greenhouse gas emissions and provide enterprise opportunities for marginalized populations. Topics are presented in real contexts through case studies, field visits, civic engagement and research, and include consumer culture, waste streams, waste management, entrepreneurship and innovation on waste, technology evaluation, downcycling / upcycling, Life Cycle Analysis and waste assessment.
2.627 Fundamentals of Photovoltaics
Fundamentals of photoelectric conversion: charge excitation, conduction, separation, and collection. Lectures cover commercial and emerging photovoltaic technologies and cross-cutting themes, including conversion efficiencies, loss mechanisms, characterization, manufacturing, systems, reliability, life-cycle analysis, risk analysis, and technology evolution in the context of markets, policies, society, and environment.
11.601 Introduction to Environmental Policy and Planning
This course focuses on national environmental and energy policy-making; environmental ethics; the techniques of environmental analysis; and strategies for collaborative environmental decision-making. The primary objective is to help students formulate a personal theory of environmental planning practice. The course is taught comparatively, with constant references to examples from around the world. It is required of all graduate students pursuing an environmental policy and planning specialization in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
STS.032 Energy, Environment, and Society: Global Politics, Technologies, and Ecologies of the Water-Energy-Food Crises
With increasing public awareness of the multiple effects of global environmental change, the terms water, energy, and food crisis have become widely used in scientific and political debates on sustainable development and environmental policy. Although each of these crises has distinct drivers and consequences, providing sustainable supplies of water, energy, and food are deeply interrelated challenges and require a profound understanding of the political, socioeconomic, and cultural factors that have historically shaped these interrelations at a local and global scale.
Environmental Histories and Cultures
CMS.631 Data Storytelling Studio: Climate Change
This course explores visualization methodologies to conceive and represent systems and data, e.g., financial, media, economic, political, etc., with a particular focus on climate change data in this version of the course. Topics include basic methods for research, cleaning, and analysis of datasets, and creative methods of data presentation and storytelling. The course considers the emotional, aesthetic, ethical, and practical effects of different presentation methods as well as how to develop metrics for assessing impact.
21W.775 Writing about Nature and Environmental Issues
In this course, students read and write about works that explore symbolic encounters in the American landscape. Some of the assigned works look at uneasy encounters between ordinary individuals and animals—wolves, eagles, sandhill cranes—that Americans have invested with symbolic significance; others explore conflicts between the pragmatic American impulse to impose order on unruly nature and the equally American inclination to enshrine the unaltered landscape.