In the first few weeks of ENVS 160, we have focused on classic and contemporary environmental thought. We have read well-known classic texts such as “Limits to Growth”, Leopold’s “The Land Ethic,” and Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons.” We have also read many, more recent, contemporary texts, almost all of which criticize classical thought. There are even disagreements within contemporary environmental thought, which are often reflected in the Ecotypes we studied in the first week of class. Not all environmentalists agree with each other.
In my first article, “Confronting Our Differences in Environmental Thought,” I discuss the importance of accepting different perspectives and criticisms in environmental studies. In my next article, I focus on American environmentalism and how many of us have a privileged view of the environment: “Are you an American Environmentalist?” Next, I talk about “The Consequences of Sustainability” and how we need to understand that sustainability has trade-offs. In the article “Embracing Our Monsters,” I talk about how we should not cast out technology all together.
Situating Environmental Problems and Solutions
In the next portion of our class, we focused on the importance of situating environmental issues. We situated climate change in the context of Hurricane Michael, environmental justice in the context of Dengue fever in Nicaragua, conservation in the context of the Northern Spotted Owl, and food in the context of GMOs. We even had a guest speaker, Daryl Davis, come to class and discuss his own experience with engaging across differences.
In “Situating Ourselves for a Deeper Understanding,” I discuss the importance of situated research in environmental studies. In “Can We Afford to Continue Ignoring Climate Change?” I situate climate change in the context of Hurricane Michael in Florida. In “Reaching Out to our Enemies,” I reflect on the environmental engagement symposium featuring Daryl Davis and discuss the importance of engaging across difference in the context of the divisions in American politics. In “Income and Race as Factors of Environmental Health,” I synthesize dengue in Nicaragua with “Toxic Waste and Race,” discussing the relationship between poverty and race and environmental health. In “Using Economics to Solve the Conservation Conundrum,” I discuss how a principle we studied in my economics class, Marginal Social Benefit and Cost, can be applied to the issue of the conservation of the Northern Spotted Owl at the expense of the logging industry and other owl species. In “Don’t be Fooled by the Myth Makers!” I talk about the GMO controversy and how the “pure” view of the “buy local” movement is not as perfect as it seems.
Based on the theme of engagement across difference, in the last portion of ENVS 160, we focused on environmental engagement. We discussed different Grid Groups (egalitarians, hierarchists, individualists, and fatalists) and how these groups affect the way we understand environmental issues. We had guest speakers Robin Teater and Adam Davis talk about their experience with the Dialogic model of engagement in which conversation, a two way street, is necessary. We ended the semester with engagement proposals in which we took environmental scholarship that we have learned and used it to focus on a particular issue situated in a place.
In “Is Portland Ready for the Big One,” I reflect on the possibility of a high intensity earthquake that would cause chaos in Portland, along with the importance of proper dissemination of information. Based on our discussion of environmental engagement, I wrote “Valuing Reciprocal Conversation” about the Dialogic model of communication and how change can be made on multiple scales, starting with conversation. Finally, “Is Recycling for the Rich?” summarizes my engagement proposal of situating environmental justice in the context of waste disposal in Portland High Schools.
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