When I was first applying to colleges, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. I didn’t know what my passions were or what I thought I would be good at. I was kind of a budding tree hugger at the time (budding. tree. get it? nyuck nyuck nyuck,) but I didn’t know how to make something of that. So when I went on a college visit and heard someone talking about Sustainability Studies, it was like a whole new world of opportunity had been opened up to me. There were other people who cared about the things I cared about and wanted to change the world just like I did. I didn’t end up choosing that college, but knowing that programs like Sustainability Studies existed made my college search so much easier because only one other school that I had applied to had a similar program, so that’s where I am now. I haven’t declared my major yet, but by next fall I will be a declared Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety student.
Whenever people ask me what my major is and I tell them Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety (which is heck of a lot of words to say and type,) they always say one of two things:
“That’s quite a mouthful!!”
“What on earth does that mean??”
You can only ever laugh at the first one, but to the second I always respond:
“My friends like to call it Hippie Science. Basically I want to learn how to hug trees and then I want to teach others why they should hug trees and how to do it best.”
Which is about as specific as I can get about the topic at this point in my life. I could define Environmental Sustainability. Here’s what the EPA has to say on the topic:
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations. Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment. (More here)
I know how my feelings about Sustainability have changed my life style:
Becoming a vegetarian
Buying used clothes
Homemade deodorant, makeup, lotion, perfume, and more.
Elimination of nasty hair and body products
Using less electricity
Eating less packaged and processed food
Trying to eat more organic or local foods
And other random things
Unfortunately, I don’t know nearly as much about Sustainability as I wish I did, which is why I’m studying and learning and reading and trying to gain as much knowledge as possible.
We watched this video in the Sustainability class that I’m taking this semester, and it really got me thinking about myself as a consumer. (check out their website) Sure, there’s always a certain amount of bias to any thing like this but it does make a powerful point about our tendency to produce, use, throw away over and over without any consideration of the consequences. To change this horrible cycle our society is going to need to go through a serious paradigm shift when it comes to how we view our planet and how it sustains us.
This is another thing that we talked about in class. Some of these are things that industry believes about people and some of these are things people believe about one another and about society. I know that I’m often sucked into the mentality that individual actions don’t make a difference, and it’s easy to feel like the little things I’m doing in my life aren’t having any effect on the world I live in and on the people that I live with. While there are some of these assumptions that I understand there are far more than make me irrationally furious at society and at how we look at our planet. The ideas that we are apart from nature or that the world is here to serve our needs bring out the tiny-furious-environmentalist in me who wants to chain herself to trees and make people listen to me. I think we need to start taking responsibility for all the things we’re doing to the planet and acknowledge that we are a part of the natural world.
One thing we’ve discussed in class a good bit is what contributes to Environmental Sustainability issues and there are several human attitudes which could be a root cause:
Denial- There’s no real problem.
Apathy- Maybe there’s a problem, but I don’t really care enough to do something.
Greed- But I want [unnecessary item or service]
Aquisitiveness- But I need [unnecessary item]
Inability to Respond to Subtle Threats- It’s not really that big of a deal.
Reliance on Convenience Items- I can’t live without my iPhone.
I know I’ve experienced the effects of all of these attitudes at one point or another, we all do but too many people just live in these mindsets and that is the sort of thing that breaks my heart and makes me so deeply upset. Change would be so much easier if we could escape from these ways of thinking. To do that we must be willing to admit that we all struggle with these mindsets and must proactively fight them.
For a long time we saw the Earth as a bottomless well full of good, clean, potable water. That’s just not the case. It becomes more and more apparent every day that Earth is a deep well which needs time to refill and requires maintenance, protection, and respect. We cannot continue to take from our planet at the rate we are because eventually we will run out of resources. Sure, Earth can produce new resources but it takes years and years of care and rest to do so.
There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew. -Marshall McLuhan
That’s so true. Every action we take, every day that we live, every breath that we breathe is affecting our planet. We cannot forget that or overlook it. If we’re not being proactive about protecting our planet then we are being destructive. Simple as that.
Question of the Day- Which of those six mindsets, (Denial, Apathy, Greed, Aquisitiveness, Inability to Respond to Subtle Threats, Reliance on Convenience Items,) do you find yourself falling into the most? For me it is definitely Apathy.