I was fortunate to attend Western Washington University, which, being a self-professed “hippie school,” has its own environmental studies department, Huxley College. Since that was the case, there was a very talented and capable faculty at my disposal. The first class I took in that discipline was Environmental Studies 101 (obviously), but my interest was not totally piqued until I took entry-level geology. Though I did not major in Environmental Studies, I took several more classes, mainly focusing on geography, ecology and things like that, all based on the enthusiasm I received as a result of Geology 101.
I took an environmental science course in high school which was the first class I had taken in school to spike my interest in the environment. I wish I had learned some facts about the environment and my effect on it sooner than junior year of high school, though. I also think my interest in the class had to do with the way I was raised playing outside and going on hikes and camping trips with my family. Statistically, children who are not exposed to nature have less sentiment towards harming it and less desire to ever experience it.
My freshman year at DePaul University I took a class called Food For All Chicago. I thought we would spend the course visiting restaurants throughout the area and learning about the culture, but instead we visited green rooftops throughout the city, and talked a lot about factory farming. After that I took a course called Green Chicago, which talked a lot about what the city is doing to be more environmentally friendly. The combination of these two courses really got my interested in environmental issues.
I took an Arctic Ecology Field Course when I was in third grade. This course was offered through the Great Bear Foundation and not affiliated with my elementary school. My family and I went to Manitoba, Canada to learn about the polar bears around Hudson Bay. It was so amazing, I have taken the winter course twice and the summer course once. It truly changed my life.
Though I did take an Environmental Chemistry course in college, it wasn’t a class that got me passionate about the environment but rather a book written by Donovan Webster called Aftermath: The Remnants of War. The book researches the environmental affects wars have had on our planet over the last 100 years. Learning that farmers in France are being killed each year because their tractors hit an undetonated munition from WW1 or that children in Vietnam are still being born with deformaties from their nation’s exposure to U.S. Agent Orange attacks 30 years before was a life-defining moment for me. Since then I’ve reread the book four or five times and each time it’s brought me to tears.
I took a class at Sarah Lawrence College on Utopian/Dystopian literature. Part of the SLC curriculum is independent studies related to class topic. Because of a lot of Utopian/dystopian literature focuses on perfect worlds, some people chose to explore different kinds of environmental issues. At the end of the class when people shared their independent studies, some people shared some really interesting discoveries about living a more eco-friendly life. It made me more aware of what was going on. An education at SLC in general will make you more aware about environmental concerns, though.
Environmental Science AP. I took it just to avoid taking the harder science AP classes like chemistry or physics and it has been a life-changing decision. The class exposed to me a whole new field that I never thought existed. There are a lot of environmental problems out there and people can and will have to solve them. The class changed my priorities, my values and interests. I felt a calling to contribute. It felt wrong to me to be destroying the environment, which is essentially our home. My teacher was excellent– very enthusiastic, yet rigourous. I recommend those in high school to take the class if it is available. Even if you don’t like it, the AP exam is easier to pass.
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