The course catalog this fall at Unity College will reflect not just the aspirational ideals of “America’s Environmental College” — a desire to return to a primeval planet, say — but the real condition of the earth, with a new online degree program in Environmental Emergency Management and Law Enforcement.

The distance learning program, which is aimed at mid-career adults, is the first at Unity College to explicitly approach the environment as a thing to be reckoned with, rather than fixed. But President Melik Khoury said it’s not a major change for the school. Khoury acknowledged that the new degree is related to the increase in natural disasters from climate change, but said the school has been adapting its curriculum for a long time to recognize humans’ place in the larger ecosystem.

“I think the industry got it wrong by assuming you had to study the environment without the human impact,” he said. “All we are doing is evolving the thinking to say, We are no longer in the stage of our history that we are looking at mitigation; we need to start looking at adaptation. And we need to be ready, whether it’s a natural disaster like an earthquake or a human-caused disaster due to climate change.”

The course catalog for the the new degree program includes “Planning and Responding to Cyberthreats and Terrorism” and “Law Enforcement and Emergency

Management in the Age of Globalization,” alongside more traditional environmental subjects of deforestation, biodiversity and natural resource law. A degree-holder might expect to work as an emergency director, police officer (with police academy training), environmental planner, immigration/customs inspector, natural disaster manager, or in disaster relief, according to enrollment materials.

Amy Arnett, Vice President of Distance Education at Unity College, noted that the school has been offering a conservation law degree for more than 30 years. So, the law-enforcement aspect of the Environmental Emergency Management and Law Enforcement curriculum isn’t new. Many graduates have gone on to careers as game wardens, but also as state police, homeland security officers and other law enforcement jobs with no obvious environmental connection.

“The degree that we are now offering in emergency environmental management is just an extension of that,” she said. “It’s making it a little more contemporary and national in scope.”

Unity College has 750 residential students at its flagship campus in Unity. About 250 of them are studying conservation law. The distance learning program currently has about 250 students, not counting any who might sign up for the Environmental Emergency Management degree this fall.

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