Since Day One this class has afforded me the opportunity to gain new insights and fresh perspectives. One thing that has really stood out in my mind is the parallel drawn in the first lecture – the financial analogy between human finances and Earth’s ecological finances. This correlation really drew a “big picture” and set the tone for how to consider the topics of the rest of the class semester. I really took to heart the aspect of “living within the budget” or in other words, consuming less than the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of Earth’s resources. I plan and look forward to the opportunity to use this analogy when talking to others about environmental sustainability issues.
As a young scientist I appreciated the fact that this class approached the science of global environmental problems but then also made evident pathways to a solution as well. A lot of the problems that we (as the human race) are facing today are combination issues: social-ecological systems instead of just unconnected troubles. I have a slight change in view now in regard to root causes of modern-day issues. This would not have happened without awareness gleaned from class readings in Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse.” Environmental degradation on Earth cannot be fully understood without connecting root causes such as population growth and resource consumption.
As at one point I considered getting a degree in History, I still have an interest in that subject and was excited to learn more about past world civilization histories but with an environmental spin. Past and present environmental crises can be compared and vision gained for our future on this Earth. By aid of this class, I have tried a new approach to evaluating past and current environmental problems through looking at both scientific and social aspects. I had not done this before. Moving forward in our modern life, I can only hope that I can have a part in overcoming the challenges of achieving a sustainable society today.
Mr. John P. Tippett, Professor, University of Mary Washington, January – April, 2016
Brooks, M., Foster, C., Holmes, M., & Wiltshire, J. (2011). Does consuming seasonal foods benefit the environment? Insights from recent research. Nutrition Bulletin, 36(4), 449-453.
To say this course was interesting and useful would be a vast understatement. In fact, it honestly changed my time at college and my life. It gave me a lot of insights into environmental problems and how to solve them. One main idea I took away from this course is that humans cannot change the course of nature. Time and time again, both in history and contemporary times, humans have attempted to manipulate the environment to our specifications. I have learned through countless examples in the past, from the Anasazi to the Everglades, that if humans try to control the environment instead of coexisting with it, it will result in failure. Another big idea I have learned is that we must look at the root causes of problems. There are root causes underlying every environmental problem, that must be tackled to truly solve the problems. Another main idea is developing a “personal toolkit” for fighting environmental problems: I learned what skills and expertise, apart from simply an environmental science degree, can be used to help achieve my goals.
This course gave me a new perspective on many issues. The most important to me is that although the future of our planet can seem bleak, it is not hopeless. Prior to this course, I was feeling jaded with environmental science, because the outlook seemed so grim and it seemed impossible to make a difference. This course showed me that individuals working together can make a difference. Another perspective I gained is that working together is absolutely key. I now try to not view people as being on a certain side: environmentalists vs. non-environmentalists. Environmental sustainability cannot be achieved if we do not work with people who are opposed to the goals of sustainability.
This course has greatly changed the way I view my role in global environmental problems. By showing me that there is in fact hope for the future of the environment, it has really changed my entire mindset towards these problems. It has also changed the way I will interact with others when trying to spread the message of environmental sustainability. I now know what is needed to tackle these problems and convince others that hope is not lost.
We have covered a lot ideas over the course of the past semester, and I learned so much more about the subject that I am passionate about. This class was not what I expected, but I think that was for the better. Instead of only focusing on the problems our environment is facing, we discussed many potential solutions to those problems. I would say that my main takeaway from this course is thinking critically on environmental problems. Yes most of these problems have obvious causes, but we can go much more in depth to find the root cause. I think that will be sometime I can take with me for the rest of my career, and that is extremely important.
The main perspective that I gained from this course is looking at ourselves and comparing us to those who lived before us. Past civilizations have seen much worse fates than us. That said, we are continuing on the same paths as many of them so it’s possible that we will suffer the same fate. This new perspective is something that I think everyone needs to be able to see and understand.
Overall I found this course to be very influential in my understanding of our environmental problems. Even though we did not specifically cover everything that is wrong in our practices, those that negatively affect the environment, I think I have a much greater understanding of what is going on in our society. It was helpful to hear the questions that my fellow students came up with, and to have a conversation with them about it. All of this not only helped me find ways to discuss our problems with others and attempt to come up with good solutions/answers, but it helped me look at things farther than simply accepting things at a face value.
During the summer of 2015, I look my first Environmental Science class. In order to complete my science requirement, I had to pick a science course. No Chemistry, no physics, and no biology; therefore, I chose Environmental Science. It wasn’t just for a credit, I actually was interested in it since my 7th grade. Until last summer, I did not know that I really liked it. Hence, I decided to take more classes and then decided to minor In Environmental Science since I am already a double majoring in English and Journalism.
It was Global Environmental Problem class that brought me so into the environmental field. I have learned incredible things through this class, which I know I wouldn’t have been able to learn otherwise. Although there are many specific things that I am taking away from this class, there are also many big ideas/concepts which I have learned here. The main thing which fascinates me, also the thing I learned from this course, is that how we can learn from our history and the things it has to offer us. Reading about failed and successful civilizations or events made me realize how important it is to know about them in order to know/predict (for a lack of a better word) future. This class has changed my perspective on so many things now, in a positive way of course. After learning about mostly about problems, it was good to learn about the positive things happening around us as well. Many of us came with the thought that it is hard to bring change and betterment in this world; however, Professor Tippett made us change our perspective. My one of the main perspectives that have changed is that there are so many things we, or just a person, can do to bring changes in our world.
Not only were the topics/readings interesting, but meeting new people from various backgrounds and outstanding thoughts made this class even more fun. Learning about various NGOs through presentations and group facilitations were the bright part of this course. As I mentioned earlier, it is a common thought of not thinking that one can make any changes, but taking part in such NGOs can help give a voice and shape their ideas. Overall, it was one of the most interesting class I’ve taken in my 2 years at UMW.
Throughout the semester I have become aware of so many more problems that face the environment than I was aware of before. I realize that caring about the environment is so much more than climate change, pollution, and conservation. Those are more like umbrella terms that cover a wide range of issues from over fishing to oxybenzone in sunscreen to failing states.
I see so many problems with the world today and it is depressing at times, but it makes me want to do something about it. Before I was aware of a few problems but I never felt an urge to go out and make a change. Like so many people I felt like leaving it to the government to fix. Now I see that that won’t happen any time soon and that its up to ordinary people to initiate change.
The main thing that I took away from this course is that in order for change to occur, people need to be educated and it needs to be affordable. During all the class discussions this semester, we talked about root causes and for almost every scenario lack of education and the high cost of sustainability were identified as the reasons for our problems. People who don’t understand what the effects of our actions will be do not feel the need to change what they are doing and if it isn’t affordable to make the switch to sustainable practices, then people will not change. Education and affordability are absolutely necessary if we want to change the way society functions. I used to think that everyone should take basic evironmental science, however now I think everyone should have to take a class like this. This class helps us see how these issues we face can be corrected. It is much more than just identifying issues and I think it is important for people to learn how they can make a change for the better.
I see hope when I see candidates like Bernie Sanders do so well. Who would have thought that someone who calls for bold, rapid change in our energy system would be doing so well. It sounds to me like he may have read Plan B because I hear him talk about transforming our energy system as if we were at war, which is a common point made by Brown. I think Sanders’ success is due to the fact that people are becoming more educated about the problems that face our environment and they see that we do need to act fast.
I want to make a difference and I know that it starts with me. I have to lead a sustainable life before I go out and ask others to. It isn’t always easy, but that’s when it counts. Going the extra mile and going out of my way to change how I live is how I can really make a difference. When people see that it is possible to live sustainably and comfortably, the world will change. I would not have come to this conclusion without the help of this class and I am so happy that I took it.
During my time in this class, I’ve found that my appreciation for the environmental challenges that the Earth is facing has increased tremendously. One of the main takeaways I’ve gotten out of this class is the knowledge of how to act when I want to make a difference. I’ve always known that saving the planet is not a spectator sport, but now I feel I know which specific actions of mine will make the most impact. For example, it is one thing for me to be picking up and recycling litter on College Avenue; advocating and then organizing a group to do this with me is another altogether.
Especially during the second half of the class, Professor Tippett has been referring a lot to our environmental toolbox. I feel I’ve acquired several new skills that I’ve added to my own toolbox. Chief among these is communication. I no longer feel ashamed or awkward telling my friends to turn out the lights when they aren’t using them or to throw that can in the recycling bin and not the trash. I understand now that my actions alone aren’t enough – I have to get others involved. On that note, my father is on the Monacan Soil and Water Conservation Board, the local governmental body for my home county. Because of this class, I have been inspired to talk with him more about things that can be done, as well as sit in on board meetings. This is my answer to Professor Tippett’s challenge to be involved politically.
I also gained new perspectives through taking this class. I feel that the first of these two perspectives is an appreciation of NGOs. Many of these organizations are the real environmental workers responsible for the changes we see in our world.
Also, I’ve found that this class has taught me to appreciate the sheer scale of the issues we as a planet are facing. From the Amazon to Africa, from the oceans to the deserts, from international to local, we truly are beset on all sides by issues. However, that reminds me of a joke I know about soldiers being surrounded: “What? We’re surrounded on all sides? Excellent! Now we can attack from whatever direction we want!” Even though this joke was referring to a military context, it can be applied to environmental issues, as well as in a less comical and more practical manner. What I mean by this is that we can begin to fix the Earth at just about any starting point. It’s just like Jared Diamond said: The Earth has a great many problems, but they all need to be fixed; fixing just one – or even all but one – isn’t enough.
Lastly, I’ve gained insight into others’ opinions and viewpoints – in particular, those of my peers. The discussions from this class have opened my eyes to many ideas, some of which I agree with, others I don’t. But regardless of whether or not I agree, I now at least see why people can be so stubborn. During one of my discussions, one individual brought up how they come from a rather rural area and their parents and friends from back home have completely different ideals and priorities than those of an environmentally oriented person. It really forced me to reevaluate what needs to be done to fix our environmental issues.
As I reflect upon everything I have learned over the past few months in Professor Tippett’s Global Problems class, I find it difficult to summarize the impact it has had on me. Words truly cannot do justice to what my mind and my heart have experienced this semester.
When I first decided to major in Environmental Science, all I knew was that I wanted to get paid to be out in the woods and on the river all day. Granted, I still hope for such working conditions….but my goals have gotten much bigger and more meaningful. I’ve never felt more passionate about anything in all my life as I do about the health of this planet and ALL of the people and other living creatures that inhabit it. I truly want to change the world, and refuse to do anything less than devote my life and career to creating a brighter future for the next generations. I dream of a future where everyone on this earth has food security, access to clean water and air, and the ability to trust that their leaders will look out for their best interests. I dream of a world with a STABLE climate- where resources are sustainably harvested and greed isn’t the norm.
I’ve spent so many years drifting through college, going through the motions while wasting time and money (I should be a damn doctor by now with all the credits I’ve accumulated!) But in all my years, I’ve never been so inspired by a class. It’s taken me 3 years of community college and 2 more at UMW to reach this point….but through the guidance and passion of one VERY dedicated professor, I finally feel like I have discovered God’s purpose for me. Until recently (about a week ago, in fact), I was terribly embarrassed and ashamed of the fact that I’ve been in college for five years and only have an associate’s degree from Germanna to show for it. But none of that matters to me anymore. Upon conclusion of this semester, I experienced a real-life, “full circle” moment that literally brought me to tears. I finally realized (and accepted) the fact that every little thing I had done in my life up to this point – every seemingly bad decision, every action or lack of action, every ounce of hard work- it has ALL brought me into the light of my life purpose. For the first time all my 27 years of life, I do not feel doubtful. I do not feel afraid. I do not feel like I am on the wrong path. So what do I feel? Friends, I feel awake. I truly hope and pray that every single one of you gets to experience the same blissful joy I felt the moment I realized my purpose. We all struggle through our own personal turmoil, and all of us have been through hell and back in our own ways. Do NOT let times like these discourage you! Keep on keeping on, fellow environmentalists! May you all continue on your journeys, follow your dreams, and BELIEVE in yourselves! You can and WILL accomplish everything you put your mind to!
Finally, since I’m submitting this on Earth Day, I want to remind everyone that EVERY day is Earth Day! I also want to share this song by one of my favorite bands, Nahko Bear and Medicine for the People. This is my personal environmental anthem, hope you all enjoy!
One of my main takeaways from this course is that all problems are solvable with the proper cooperation and communication. Rather than being at odds with the opposition to an issue, the most important thing is to develop a working relationship with those people so that there is a shared interest to solve the problem. I have become much more aware of the world around me and my day-to-day impact on it, however, I am leaving still looking for answers as to what I can do to help. I am also taking away from this course the fact that our current society is not immune to collapse. Because of the advancement of technologies, they are what we turn to and bet on to get us out of a problem when we have an inclination of its future occurrence. Its like not worrying about the dangers of carcinogens because you think that by the time you get cancer, the cure for it will have been developed.
The recent news that 93% of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching was heartbreaking, but if it were not for this course, I would have waived this off as another “natural” occurrence and not thought much about it. This leaves me thinking: what natural wonder is next? In 50 years what will be the perspective of the human race towards the environment and how much of the world as we currently know it will be around for my children and grandchildren to enjoy as I do? My hope is that the world as a whole can come together to recognize and resolve issues but, realistically, I am skeptical. I think that as long as these issues are politicized and associated with certain political groups the cooperation and communication will not be effective enough.
As I graduate and move on with my life my goal/role for addressing environmental concerns is to solve by example. In doing so, I hope to affect a causal chain throughout the network of people I interact with. I also want to make strides to disassociate environmental concerns from political agendas/groups and make them issues that everyone is in agreement with. A tall task, but a necessary one nonetheless.
“Time bombs with fuses of less than 50 years” is how Jared Diamond described the top twelve environmental problems that we face. If we continue the way we are going, we will deplete most of the world’s remaining marine fisheries, deplete readily accessible reserves of oil and natural gas, and approach the photosynthetic ceiling all within the next few decades. The biodiversity of our planet will continue to crash as our population growth soars. However, this is assuming that we continue with our current consumption rates.
Assuming that we could convince the world to take military-quick action, where would we begin? As noted by Diamond, we must solve every twelve of the major sets of environmental problems facing societies for the earth to be balanced again. These twelve major sets include: the rapid decrease of natural habitats, wild food sources, biological diversity, and soil; ceilings on energy, freshwater and photosynthetic capacity being met; the generation of toxic chemicals, alien species and atmospheric gases; and the increase in human population and the impact we humans have on the environment. It is true all twelve must be solved, but is it possible to solve one and have others (of course, not all) fall into place? I personally believe that one of the more important ones to put our focus into would be the last one: the impact we humans have on the environment. If first world countries would accept a less materialistic lifestyle to be the ideal standard of living, then this would create a cascade of positive effects throughout the other sets of problems. It would decrease our consumption rates which would take pressure off of wild food sources and soil erosion. We would not be so apt to resort to toxic chemicals to find quick fixes to products and instead put care into what we create in every aspect from materials to the disposal of them. Atmospheric gases would decrease as we would be resorting for the more environmentally conscious vehicles and not gas-guzzling show cars. Even though this would not solve all sets of problems, I feel this one would be an important environmental problem to focus on as it would relieve pressure and potentially solve others. Which problem do you believe we would need to begin with if the world was all of a sudden ready to tackle the problems with military-quick action?
Few days ago, I was visiting one of my friend’s house and we were about to have lunch. There were numerous dishes and items to eat, enough to feed our entire class. They prepared a humongous lunch for mere 10 people or so. After we were done eating, there was so much of food left. The very next day, they had to trash the food because some of it was going bad. Yet, they again prepared a really big meal the following day. Although they did accept that they feel bad trashing it away, but who else could eat if their family couldn’t finish it. I was very upset and surprised thinking that if they know that there aren’t as many people to eat, then why would you cook so much.
I see similar cases on campus, usually at events, when people trash a good amount of clean (almost packed) food once the event ends. I am sure many of you have witnessed such cases as well, probably at buffets or gatherings. We all know the solutions to this problem, but do we apply those solutions every time we see food getting wasted?
I’d be lying if I say I don’t waste food at all; however, I do always look for other options than trashing my food in the bin. Often times my friends would make a comment about me being too nagging on not wasting food, but it doesn’t stop me from stopping them from wasting their food. I suggest them to either give it to someone else or take it in a box home if not for yourself than your siblings/roommates. I also hear people saying that it doesn’t look good taking food back in a box if you’re in a posh/fancy restaurant. I do not think wasting food elevates your status as well. Really think about it, how many other resources (money, transportation, time, food, poverty, etc.) you can save by just saving your remaining lunch for your dinner.