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Programs in Education

Human & Planetary Health Courses

The human & planetary health crisis requires new thinking and bold leadership. These courses explore health adaptations to the climate crisis, how public health and environmental justice are intertwined, and how health considerations can inform environmental action – preparing students for careers in global health, environmental science, policy, entrepreneurship, innovation, strategic communications, and activism.

Photo by Michael Snyder / Climate Visuals Countdown


A collaboration of the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health and Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Stanford Program for Disease Ecology, Health and the Environment

As the world faces unprecedented heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on human health are becoming the focus of much research and scholarship. As Stanford launches its new Doerr School of Sustainability, a growing number of courses explore the linkages between human & planetary health – engaging expertise from the School of Medicine and other partners across the university.

Learn more about human & planetary health courses below. For more information on human & planetary health at Stanford, explore the work led by the Center for Innovation in Global Health (CIGH) through its Human & Planetary Health focus area and the Woods Institute through its Healthy Planet, Healthy People initiative. For a full list of courses in global health and human & planetary health, explore CIGH course lists for undergraduates and graduate students.

*Anything missing? Please contact Erika Veidis:

Fall courses

BIO 103: Human & Planetary Health (BIO 203, SOC 103)
Two of humanity’s biggest challenges are strongly linked: advancing health equity and halting environmental degradation. The emerging field of planetary health recognizes these connections and promotes creative, interdisciplinary solutions that strive for both human health equity and the health of the ecosystems on which we depend.

SUSTAIN 140: Environmental Humanities: Finding Our Place on a Changing Planet (BIO 184)
Through engaging the work of environmental philosophers, cultural ecologists, artists, humanities scholars, Indigenous leaders, and others with land-based knowledge, this course will prompt you to think deeply about humanity’s place in the world and explore strategies to change our course.

BIO 179: Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs (BIO 279, EARTHSYS 179, EARTHSYS 279)
This course explores the science of valuing nature, examining human dependence and impacts on Earth’s life-support systems along with concepts of well-being, human development, and conservation – and the ethics and effects of their pursuit.

HUMBIO 116: Climate Perspectives: Climate Science, Impacts, Policy, Negotiations, and Advocacy (PUBLPOL 116)
Learn about climate science, climate impacts on health and the planet, climate policy, and climate advocacy – understanding the costs of inaction, barriers to widespread climate agreements, and what to expect from future climate negotiations.

ANTHRO 282: Medical Anthropology (ANTHRO 82, HUMBIO 176A)
Explore how health, illness, and healing are understood, experienced, and constructed in social, cultural, and historical contexts – with topics including: biopower and body politics, gender and reproductive technologies, illness experiences, medical diversity and social suffering, and the interface between medicine and science.

CEE 270: Movement and Fate of Organic Contaminants in Waters
Learn about the transport of chemical constituents in surface and groundwater, including advection, dispersion, sorption, interphase mass transfer, and transformation – and impacts on water quality. Emphasis is on physicochemical processes and the behavior of hazardous waste contaminants.

SUST 210: Pursuing Sustainability: Managing Complex Social Environmental Systems (ESS 230)
This course provides a systems framework for understanding and managing social-environmental systems, with the ultimate goal of inclusive, equitable, intra- and intergenerational human well-being.

MED 228: Physicians and Social Responsibility
Explore the social and political context of the roles of physicians and health professionals in social change through policy, advocacy, and shaping public attitudes. Topics include: nuclear arms proliferation; environmental health concerns; physicians in government; activism through research; the effects of poverty on health; homelessness; and gun violence.

EARTHSYS 194A: Environmental Justice Colloquium (HUMRTS 194A, URBANST 155A)
This colloquium brings the voices and vision of leading Environmental Justice (EJ) advocates to the Stanford community in order to educate, inspire, and transform our understanding of environmental science. Learn about ensuring equitable access to environmental benefits and preventing or mitigating the disproportionate impacts of environmental harms for all communities – with topics including: toxic exposures and health disparities, climate justice and youth action, Indigenous land and water rights, green cities and Afrofuturism, food justice and intersecting social movements, queer ecologies, and more.

STS 177: The Cultural Politics of Food and Eating: Technology, History, and Justice
This course will examine our everyday food practices as a site of politics where culture, technology, history, and issues of ethics and justice intersect. The topics covered include: the industrialization of agriculture; globalization and local foodways; food justice and ethics; new technologies in food practices (e.g., biotechnology, delivery apps); health and diet trends; and food and global challenges (e.g., climate change, COVID-19).

CEE 278A: Air Pollution Fundamentals
Examine the sources and health effects of gaseous and particulate air pollutants. Topics include: influence of meteorology on pollution, atmospheric diffusion equations, downwind dispersion of emissions from point and line sources, removal of air pollutants, mechanisms for ozone formation, and effects of airborne particle size and composition.

SUSTAIN 329: Policy Practicum: Smoke (LAW 808D)
*Also offered winter, spring
Work with various California legislative and executive branch decision makers to refine a model of air quality health benefits and investigate potential new policy approaches to streamlining the approval process for prescribed burning projects while protecting environmental values.

HRP 224: Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab (MED 224, PUBLPOL 224)
*Also offered winter, spring
Design and develop innovative social ventures addressing key challenges in health and the environment in a course that combines design-thinking exercises, short lectures & case studies, workshops, small group teamwork, presentations, guest speakers, and faculty, practitioner and peer feedback.

CEE 277F: Advanced Field Methods in Water, Health and Development
*Also offered winter, spring, summer
Explore field methods for assessing household stored water quality, hand contamination, behaviors, and knowledge related to water, sanitation and health.

 HRP 215: Causal Inference for Environment-Health Studies: A Survey of Recent Literature (MED 215)
This seminar accompanies the growing body of research on methodological approaches to estimating climate-health impacts, and surveys recent econometric and statistical methods for causal inference using observational data, including two-way fixed effects, difference-in-differences, and doubly robust estimations. The course is designed as a seminar series for graduate students with prior expertise and interest in inferential methods for climate-health research. Each week will focus on a different research methodology, with a discussant and synthesis of approaches for applied studies.

Winter courses

HRP 224: Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab (MED 224, PUBLPOL 224)
*Also offered fall, spring
Design and develop innovative social ventures addressing key challenges in health and the environment in a course that combines design-thinking exercises, short lectures & case studies, workshops, small group teamwork, presentations, guest speakers, and faculty, practitioner and peer feedback.

CEE 277F: Advanced Field Methods in Water, Health and Development
*Also offered fall, summer, spring
Explore field methods for assessing household stored water quality, hand contamination, behaviors, and knowledge related to water, sanitation and health.

SOMGEN 207: Theories of Change in Global Health (INTLPOL 291, PUBLPOL 291)
Organizations dedicated to improving global health deploy various approaches ranging from efforts to improve economic conditions, health systems, and technology to policy change and advocacy. This course critically evaluates 15 common theories of change that underlay global health interventions.

MED 246: Confronting Emotions in the Climate Sciences
Study a rapidly-growing body of scholarship and activism related to emotive and existential responses to climate change – exploring the psychosocial complexities that the Anthropocene proposes through key texts, films, and guest lectures that draw on climate psychology, philosophy, art, literature and history.

ESS 268: Empirical Methods in Sustainable Development (INTLPOL 272)
This course focuses on the determinants of human well-being over the short and long-run, including the role of environmental factors in shaping development outcomes. Students will focus on the empirical literature across both social and natural sciences, with discussion and assignments emphasizing empirical analysis of environment-development linkages, application of methods in causal inference, and data visualization.

HUMBIO 3B: Environmental and Health Policy Analysis
Explore connections among the life sciences, social sciences, climate science, public health, and public policy – including the economic, social, and institutional factors that underlie environmental degradation and challenges facing the health care system and public policies to address these problems.

CHPR 239: Contemplative Competence for Sustainability of Public and Planetary Health and Well-being
Effective engagement with the daunting complexity inherent in the climate crisis requires calm contemplative competence. Moreover, research indicates contemplative practices can sustain altruistic behaviors that enhance mutual flourishing of people and the planet. Through diverse learning experiences, students will develop the empathy, discernment, and wisdom necessary for initiating and implementing solutions to the climate crisis.

BIO 117: Biology and Global Change (EARTHSYS 111, EARTHSYS 217, ESS 111)
Learn about the biological causes and consequences of anthropogenic and natural changes in the atmosphere, oceans, and terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, with topics including: glacial cycles and marine circulation, greenhouse gasses and climate change, tropical deforestation and species extinctions, and human population growth and resource use.

CEE 260C: Contaminant Hydrogeology and Reactive Transport (ESS 221)
Decades of industrial activity have released vast quantities of contaminants to groundwater, threatening water resources, ecosystems and human health. What processes control the fate and transport of contaminants in the subsurface? What remediation strategies are effective and what are the tradeoffs among them? How are these processes represented in models used for regulatory and decision-making purposes?

CEE 64: Air Pollution and Global Warming: History, Science, and Solutions (CEE 263D)
Learn about air pollution and global warming and their renewable energy solutions, focusing on the following topics: evolution of the Earth’s atmosphere, history of discovery of chemicals in the air, bases and particles in urban smog, visibility, indoor air pollution, acid rain, stratospheric and Antarctic ozone loss, the historic climate record, causes and effects of global warming, impacts of energy systems on pollution and climate, renewable energy solutions to air pollution and global warming.

BIOE 271: Frugal Science
In this course, participants will learn principles of frugal science to design scalable solutions for planetary-scale challenges with a cost versus performance rubric and explore creative means to break the accessibility barrier.

HUMBIO 166: Food and Society: Exploring Eating Behaviors in Social, Environmental, and Policy Context (CHPR 166)
Examine forces that affect the foods human beings eat, and when, where, and how we eat them, including human labor, agriculture, environmental sustainability, politics, animal rights/welfare, ethics, policy, culture, economics, business, law, trade, and ideology, and psychology.

SUSTAIN 2: Climate and Society
How and why is the climate changing? How might a changing climate affect human society? And what can we do to alter the course of climate change and adapt to any climatic changes that do occur? This course provides an introduction to the natural science and social science of climate change. The focus is on what science tells us about the causes, consequences, and solutions to climate change, as well as on how scientific progress is made on these issues.

EMED 134: The Impact of Climate Change on Human Health (EMED 234)
This weekly seminar aims to introduce medical trainees to a variety of climate change topics and advanced clinical considerations specific to climate change. Course content will cover climate and disease, sustainable medicine, advocacy and related social justice aspects.

ME 297: Forecasting for Innovators: Exponential Technologies, Tools and Social Transformation
First we invent our technologies – and then we use our technologies to reinvent ourselves, as individuals, as communities and ultimately, as a planetary society. The result has been a vast wave of astonishing innovations that in turn have generated the profound challenges facing humanity today. You will work with a suite of forecasting methods essential to cultivating innovator’s effective foresight, the ability to spot hidden trends, identify new opportunities, develop responsive innovations and anticipate unintended impacts in the face of exponential uncertainty. Our topical focus this quarter will be the Western US megadrought.

BIO 35: Sustainability and Civilization (HISTORY 35, POLISCI 35)
Our civilization faces multiple sustainability challenges. Climate change often dominates public conversation, but in fact, a whole range of environmental, economic, political, and cultural trends threaten the structures that sustain the societies we know. These problems cannot be understood in isolation, because they interact in complex ways. Solving them will require collaboration across many different fields, from the natural and social sciences to the humanities. This one-unit course brings together over two dozen faculty from across the entire university for a series of interdisciplinary conversations around cross-cutting themes. Our aim is to encourage dialogue¿and perhaps even future collaborations¿among students and professors who might otherwise rarely interact in a classroom. All students are welcome, but frosh and sophomores may find the course especially useful as an introduction to a wide range of sustainability-related disciplines and teachers at Stanford.

GLOBAL 112: Oceans and the Global Imaginary
This course brings together various social, climatic, and ecological perspectives to seek a better understanding of the relationships between people and the sea. Our oceans constitute some 70% of the surface area of our planet; they connect continents, countless islands, and form a universal link between geographically vast regions and culturally diverse peoples. Our oceans are critical to the health of our planet, and to humanity, and it is this interdependent relationship that forms the basis of this course.Taking a genuinely global viewpoint, we will explore the dynamic nature of peoples’ interactions with their maritime landscape and seascape. The course will draw on a wide range of social science and natural science data and approaches to assess how we traversed and explored the seas; how the seas have been an enduring source of nutrition; and how they have come to garner immense social and cultural significance to peoples around the world.

HUMBIO 112G: Parks and People on Islands: Lessons for Sustainability
Using island systems as a microcosm to study and discuss sustainability, the course will motivate students to think deeper about the implications of sustainability in places that are isolated, fragile and vulnerable to all anthropogenic activities. A variety of island contexts will be considered but the class will give special attention to the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador. Students will explore past and present efforts to maintain the natural and cultural resources of the Galápagos Islands in the face of rapid growth in a tourism-based economy and ever-increasing globalization. In individual or small-group course projects, students will search for tangible, realistic solutions to specific Galápagos problems in the effort to achieve balance between nature and a local human population.

BIO 71: Planet Ocean (ESS 71)
Oceans make up the majority of our planet’s area and living spaces and are fundamental to biodiversity, climate, food and commerce.This course covers integration of the oceanography and marine biology of diverse ocean habitats such as the deep sea, coral reefs, open ocean, temperate coasts, estuaries and polar seas. Lectures include state of the art knowledge as well as emerging technologies for future exploration. The second section focuses on how the oceans link to the global environment, and how ocean capacity helps determine human sustainability.

BIO 6N: Ocean Conservation: Pathways to Solutions
We will learn how to design pathways to solutions by integrating social sciences and governance into our case studies. We will address both conventional (fisheries management, reducing the impacts of global shipping, marine protected areas) and emerging research and management approaches (marine spatial planning, dynamic ocean management, environmental DNA). Oceans are facing long-term challenges, like overfishing and pollution that we know how to solve, and emerging challenges, like climate change and ocean plastics, for which solutions are more elusive. Ultimately to achieve long-term sustainability, solutions have to work for both people and the planet. These puzzles offer challenging complex systems problems that will require our best interdisciplinary thinking to solve.

Spring courses

HRP 224: Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Lab (MED 224, PUBLPOL 224)
*Also offered fall, winter
Design and develop innovative social ventures addressing key challenges in health and the environment in a course that combines design-thinking exercises, short lectures & case studies, workshops, small group teamwork, presentations, guest speakers, and faculty, practitioner and peer feedback.

CEE 277F: Advanced Field Methods in Water, Health and Development
*Also offered fall, winter, summer
Explore field methods for assessing household stored water quality, hand contamination, behaviors, and knowledge related to water, sanitation and health.

HRP 285: Global Leaders and Innovators in Human and Planetary Health (MED 285)
*Also offered winter
Explore innovative ideas and strategies for addressing urgent challenges in human and planetary health through a diverse array of lenses, including: healthcare/medical innovation, environmental sustainability, foundations/venture capital, biotechnology/pharmaceuticals, social innovation/entrepreneurship, tech/media and artificial intelligence (AI), human rights, global poverty/development, sustainable agriculture/hunger/nutrition, public policy/systems change.

COLLEGE 106: Environmental Sustainability: Global Predicaments and Possible Solutions
The course will survey our planet’s greatest sustainability challenges, and some of the possible ways that humankind might overcome each. The course material will include introductory-level science, social science, and business studies material, and give students a basic understanding of the global biological, cultural, social, and economic processes involved in environmental sustainability.

MED 194: Global Health: Through an Equity Lens (MED 294)
Explore current topics of global health through an equity lens. Topics include decolonizing global health, climate and vulnerable populations, the poverty trap, inequities in reproductive rights, inequities for child health as well as global gender and racial disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

HUMBIO 114: Global Change and Emerging Infectious Disease (EARTHSYS 114, ESS 213, EARTHSYS 214)
Explore the changing epidemiological environment – and how human-induced environmental changes are altering the ecology of infectious disease transmission and promoting their re-emergence as a global public health threat. Case studies include malaria, cholera, hantavirus, plague, and HIV.

BIOE 394: Innovate for Planet Health: Entrepreneurial Opportunities for Planet and Societal Health Challenges
Learn about scientific and economic challenges and opportunities in innovating related to climate change and environmental/social determinants of health – engaging with speakers who are inspiring entrepreneurs and leaders addressing planetary and global health challenges through their work.

BIOE 375: Biodesign and Entrepreneurship for Societal Health
Addressing societal health and the environmental/social/economic determinants of health is a new frontier of entrepreneurship to improve global and public health at scale. In this hybrid seminar-based and experiential course, you will learn about the scientific and economic challenges and opportunities for innovating in these areas. You will also design solutions and ventures aimed at tackling specific societal health problems.

BIO 2N: Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease in a Changing World
This seminar will explore the ways in which anthropogenic change, climate change, habitat destruction, land use change, and species invasions affect the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases.

DESINST 258U: Upstreaming Health (HUMBIO 128U)
Upstreaming health means making a deliberate effort to create patterns of everyday life that keep people well – physically, emotionally, financially, and socially. We will explore systems that influence health, integrating concepts from public health, systems thinking, and design justice and use tools from product and policy design to answer the question: How might we upstream health for all people?

ME 375: Wildfire Science
While wildfires have been a natural part of our ecosystem, they can threaten livelihood and properties and impact the environment and health – and are increasing in frequency and intensity due to human factors. Learn about the science of wildland fires, with a specific focus on the physics and quantitative understanding of wildfire behavior, environmental impact, and fire management.

EARTHSYS 109: Rethinking Meat: An Introduction to Alternative Proteins (EARTHSYS 209, ESS 103, ESS 203, ETHICSOC 107)
How do we feed a growing population in the face of climate change? Learn about frontiers in food engineering, animal rights, human health, and sustainable agriculture – with a focus on the environmental, ethical, and economic drivers behind the market for meat replacements.

EARTHSYS 125: Shades of Green: Exploring and Expanding Environmental Justice in Practice (CSRE 125E, EARTHSYS 225, URBANST 125)
Historically, discussions of race, ethnicity, culture, and equity in the environment have been shaped by a limited view of the environmental justice movement, often centered on urban environmental threats and separated from other types of environmental and climate advocacy. This course will seek to expand on these discussions by exploring topics such as access to outdoor spaces, definitions of wilderness, inclusion in environmental organizations, gender and the outdoors, the influence of colonialism on ways of knowing, food justice and ethics, and the future of climate change policy. The course will also involve a community partnership project.

Summer courses

SGSI 2023: Research with Impact: Developing Skills as a Community-Engaged Scholar
*Not for credit
Join to learn from leading scholars about different approaches to community engaged scholarship and how you can develop a research agenda that addresses priorities and needs of the broader community. Each session will involve scholars from across campus, and by the end of the week participants will draft a brief research memo to guide their next steps. Open to graduate students.