The CSU College of Liberal Arts’ mission is to create and extend knowledge and artistry that develops reflective citizens and confident leaders.

In a 2021 monthly series, we share stories that reflect our curiosity, ability to adapt, engagement with the community, and research and creative expertise.

In a special Earth Day edition, we are focusing on environmental sustainability.

Together, we solve wicked problems like climate change and food insecurity, learn about the Earth with a liberal arts lens, connect to the natural environment, and protect the Earth through conservation of our history and resources.





Together, we advance the human experience.

Together we solve
Rainforest scene

Department of Economics

The effects of the global COVID-19 crisis will be long-lasting, but the shifts in the global financial system are a chance to set the world on track for a greener, more sustainable recovery. University Distinguished Professor Ed Barbier is contributing research to United Nations conversations that supports creating a stronger, greener economic recovery – for example, ending fossil fuel subsidies and incorporating climate risks into the financial system.

Josh Sbicca

Department of Sociology

Assistant Professor Joshua Sbicca promotes policies that focus on land, labor, urban and rural community development, health, self-determination and environmental sustainability. His research focuses on food systems and what he argues is the “dying industry of modern agriculture” – at risk not because of lack of production, but because of its contributions to problems like climate change and income inequality. Sbicca’s research asserts that two elements are essential to reconstructing rural America and dealing with climate change: agriculture based in principles of ecology, and economic policies that end overproduction of cheap food and reestablish fair prices for farmers.

Read more about why Sbicca believes U.S. agriculture needs a 21st-cemtury New Deal.

Art by Erika Osborne

Department of Art & Art History / Gregory Allicar Museum of Art

Reclaiming post-extraction landscapes is usually practical and economical, directed by extraction companies, government sponsors, and the engineers and scientists working with them. Opening this summer at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, Reclamation: Recovering Our Relationship with Place, curated by Associate Professor of Painting Erika Osborne in the Department of Art and Art History as part of Extraction: Art on the Edge of the Abyss, asks how artists—alone or in concert with others—might instead solve issues of reclamation in strange or ambitious ways. “Artists are visionaries…[that] can challenge cultural preconceptions and even our best logic,” Osborne writes. The artists featured in Reclamation use this divergent framework in painting and drawing, performance, video, sculpture, and installation to present forward-thinking perspectives on a hope-filled, post-extraction world.

Learn more about the upcoming exhibition Reclamation: Recovering Our Relationship with Place.

together we anth405

Department of Anthropology and Geography

In Public Anthropology and Global Environmental Challenges (ANTH 405), undergraduate students are charged with podcasting what they preach. Professor Kate Browne emphasizes and explains knowledge and practices in anthropology and ethnography that can address worldwide social and environmental issues and dilemmas – that’s public anthropology. In Fall 2020, Browne guided students to develop a podcast series – for the actual public – learning media and communications skills as well as public anthropology. The series, Takes from the Anthropocene, includes 14 episodes that cover climate change, ocean pollution, Indigenous rights, and other topics. “This class left me with a solid foundation of hope for the future,” said student Amanda Kowalski. “Public anthropology works.”

Learn more about and listen to the podcast “Takes from the Anthropocene.”

Together we learn
Monticello, UT

Center for Environmental Justice

Colorado State University has a long history of commitment to environmental initiatives and sustainability. With the creation of the Center for Environmental Justice in March 2020, CSU expanded their environmental expertise to include social justice. Environmental justice movements and scholars have examined issues of inequality ranging from water usage concerns to the infrastructure in the built environment. The Center engages with the CSU community by hosting symposiums and summits, organizing events, and teaching environmental justice courses.

Read more about how liberal arts are a key voice in this new interdisciplinary research center.

Alaskan Brown Bear

Department of Economics

The Department of Economics and Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (DARE) co-host a weekly seminar, bringing in top-tier economists from around the globe. This semester, faculty and students had the opportunity to learn from Lynne Lewis, a well-known environmental economist here on sabbatical at CSU who presented her research on brown bears in Alaska and valuing “charismatic wildlife.” Additional seminars this semester have addressed the latest research on carbon shares, global climate policy, and impacts of early exposure to pollution.

Together we connect

School of Music, Theatre, and Dance

For performing and visual artists, the natural environment is a prominent muse; during COVID-19, the outdoors has allowed performers to continue creating in a healthy space. Connection to nature, both as an inspiration and a viable venue for dance, was expressed through two pieces produced by CSU dance majors for the annual Body/Speak Concert, presented digitally for 2021. Having grown up in Breckenridge, senior dance major and choreographer Emily Wallace has always been in awe of the mountains. “I was inspired to make a piece about the simultaneous beauty and freedom as well as isolation and daunting nature that I feel while looking over a mountain range.” For Earth Day, connect to nature through dance with “Hauntingly Beautiful” by Emily Wallace, and “Interim: Connection/Isolation” by Brianna Port.

Ken Shockley with students at the Mountain Campus

Department of Philosophy

Philosophy professor Ken Shockley and students of Environmental Ethics, sit on the shores of Beaver Creek and discuss the feeling of awe and the often conflicting values of the natural world that are inspired by that feeling. Shockley explains the importance of being in nature with his students, “Experiencing these environments and developing these relationships are not only thrilling aspects of being out in ‘the wilds.’ They present us with obligations that come with learning that these environments are part of who we are, wherever we are.” Shockley is teaching his course PHIL 345 Environmental Ethics at the CSU Mountain Campus this summer.

Learn more about the two-week philosophy course offered on Environmental Ethics.

David Bunn on a laptop in South Africa with a Warthog in the background

Department of Anthropology and Geography

In the biodiversity hotspot of Kruger National Park in South Africa, rapid development poses threats to elephants, lions, rhinos, and other African wildlife. To understand the effects of current and future changes in land use in and around Kruger, Geography Professor David Bunn and his research group, including colleagues from CSU and beyond, are developing an “ecological forecasting” system – with the backing of a $750,000 award from NASA. The project will apply field data, aerial images, and data from NASA earth-observation satellites to help guide decisions about “rewilding” areas to improve and conserve wildlife habitat. “What is especially exciting, for us,” Bunn said, “is the role CSU will now play in deploying advanced earth-observation technology, such as the GEDI high-resolution laser on the International Space Station, in the service of rural southern African communities.”

Philosophy students picking up trash to serve the local community and environment

Department of Philosophy

First-year students in Assistant Professor Ashby Butnor’s Key Seminar participated in a trail and open space clean-up project and gathered litter from Braiden Hall down the Spring Creek Trail to Rolland Moore Park and Fischer and Ross Natural Areas. Butnor explains, “I always plan projects where we can work directly with neighbors in our community, but COVID derailed our plans this year. Instead, we’re serving people indirectly by caring for our earth and water.” First-year student Estefany Revilla also found the service to be personally fulfilling: “I enjoyed getting to know more of my classmates while helping mother nature. I loved the walk and the time to be outside.”