Sustainability and learning. 50 to go…

I swear, I’m the last person alive still in school while all of my friends are already home.

So it’s finals week! Finals week is basically the best week of the whole semester because except for all of the projects, papers, and exams to do you have absolutely no responsibilities. I haven’t woken up before noon since Wednesday (except for church on Sunday,) and I’ve been able to do whatever I want during the day and it’s been so lovely.

A couple months ago I wrote this post for my Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety class and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to write about it for my final project. I’ve been thinking for weeks about what to write. My first thought was to use lots of big words to discuss all of the things we’ve learned this semester, but the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve realized that that’s not what the class has been about. So instead of throwing big words at you, I’m going to just tell you about what I’ve learned this semester and what it’s meant to me.

SCIENCE
You may know this, but I’m definitely a science nerd. Hydrogen bonding, xylem and phloem, Mendelian genetics, these are the things that get my heart pumping. I love science and I love sustainability but I know very little of the science surrounding sustainability, at least I didn’t. Throughout this semester I have learned so much about alternative energy technologies, water systems, hydrofracking, alien species, habitat fragmentation, plant science, and so much more. I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge and like I’ve formed a really strong base to continue learning off of. It’s also been a huge help that my Biology class has been a perfect parallel for my Sustainability class. We spent almost the entire semester in Biology learning about plant anatomy and function, animal classification, as well as evolution and ecology. I’ve been so excited to learn this semester that I’ve actually read text books for fun. I’ve been so interested to learn the science behind the way the world works and behind how we as humans interact with that world in both positive and negative ways. It has inspired me to learn even more on my own over the summer.

ENVIRONMENTAL/SOCIAL JUSTICE
Another thing you may know about me is that I am really passionate about justice, particularly social justice and environmental justice. A lot of this passion has developed since coming to college and has come with my increased feminist (a word I never spell right the first time) tendencies. My most read blog post is basically just one long feminist rant about the Victoria’s Secret fashion show (check that out here,) and this semester has done so much to strengthen my passion for justice. I’m taking a Values and Public Policy class this semester which has taught me so much about the concept of environmental justice. Environmental justice is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” (here) This has gone hand in hand with my Sustainability class as we’ve spent a lot of time discussing hydrofracking (don’t even try to tell me that Wikipedia isn’t reliable. Ask any college student, that’s where we learn most of everything,) Cape winds, Love Canal, and Hurricane Katrina. I’m seeing more and more ways that environmental justice is related to sustainability and vice versa. I’m becoming more and more convinced that in order to have a more sustainable world we must be willing to strive for environmental justice.

CONVERSATION
One of the hardest things about being a crazy tree hugger is trying to explain to people why I’m so passionate about our planet and about why I’m willing to put aside my personal comfort to take care of the planet. It’s hard to explain to people why I don’t eat meat even though I love it, why I don’t believe in shampoo, why I reach into trashcans to grab recyclable materials, and so much more. I often feel like it’s my job to present a researched and well developed case for why I do the things I do. I feel like I have to be able to defend every single thing I do at a moment’s notice. My sustainability class has been so helpful at teaching me otherwise. The class was almost entirely discussion based and we spent a lot of time discussing who “needs to be at the table” in regards to discussions about sustainability. We spent a lot of time discussing various issues and doing mock town meetings, debates, discussions, and things like that. I’ve learned the importance of not just jumping to my own defense but of also taking the time to listen to other people’s opinions and views. Something my three best friends Grace, Kelly, Mike and I say is “I’ll throw the words over your head and you’ll throw the words over my head and we’ll just be talking past one another,” when referring (another word I just can’t spell. What made me think I should be a blogger? I can’t spell half of the words I want to use and half the time I just skip words in sentences,) to situations where people are just talking at one another while not really listening to each other, a thing that the four of us do a lot, and I think it really applies in this situation. So much of the discussion about sustainability is just people throwing words over each other’s heads and not really listening to one another. I’ve learned that just listening to people makes it so much easier to have productive, interesting, and intelligent conversations with people.

This semester has been an incredible time of learning for me. Three of the four classes I’ve taken this semester have been endlessly fascinating and I feel like I’m finally learning about the sort of things that I want to know. It’s things like this that convince me that I’ve picked the right major and that I’ve found something that I’m passionate about. I’m so thankful for everything I’ve learned. I also want to say a huge thanks to my incredible Sustainability professor, Kimie. She’s been so inspiring this semester and I’ve loved every moment of her class. I’ve learned and grown in my passion so much because of her and I never got a chance to tell her that during class. I hope that I have the chance to learn from and work with you again, Kimie! Thank you for everything!

I hope to write something about this year and this semester in review, but I’ll get to that some day when I’m not furiously writing essays, studying, and trying to pack up my life.

Love you!

Abby

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