If there is one thing I have learned being a grad student in environmental studies, it is that there is no easy solution to our problems. In fact, much of what I have studied contradicts each other. Many people have rigid notions of what it means to be environmentally friendly. But when factoring in a rapidly growing human population and a variety of interrelated social and ecological factors, complications ensue.
I believe it is important to admit environmental issues are not black and white. I have heard enough petty debating among environmentalists with differing views on the best course of action to take to understand why “environmentalist” has a negative connotation in mainstream culture. If we can’t get over our own egos, how do we expect the rest of the human population to follow suit? We must admit that, as a part of modern society, we are all guilty of creating negative impacts on the Earth. And then we need to get rid of the concept of guilt. It has been my experience so far in life that guilt does little except create resentment.
Perhaps I am getting too philosophical. This is another problem I have noticed in my studies of environmental issues: the tendency for academia to be abstract and inapplicable to the concrete world. But I suppose that constitutes another rant for another day…
Over the past quarter, I have reflected on many topics. Though most of these meanderings have centered on job acquisition or graduate school, I have not written about the one project that has dominated most of my time and energy. This project is what academics call a “thesis.” With its hulking requirements and cumbersome expectations, the thesis commands an unparalleled grip on one’s personal and academic life.
Some of you may wonder why I am writing a thesis all together. Admittedly, that thought has passed through my mind as well. Most Public Administration programs do not typically require the in-depth investigation conducted during thesis research unless a student is PhD bound. Though I have considered pursuing a doctorate degree, I have decided to postpone this eventuality in light of job opportunities in higher education. Thus, my rationale for writing a thesis stems from pure academic curiosity.
Entering graduate school, I committed myself to intellectual betterment and regarded thesis research as the best way to enhance my conative abilities. I believe in conducting research for research’s sake and I want to create new knowledge. As I begin my final quarter at Ohio University, the stakes are higher than ever. In the coming months I will finish my thesis, defend my research, graduate, and find a job. Strangely, I am not nervous. In fact, I feel stronger, smarter, and faster than ever. Though I am a long way from graduation, I know this experience has made me a better student and individual.
If you’re an MSES student like myself, you probably love to get involved with as many environmental opportunities and events as you can. Even if sustainability isn’t your major, you may still love the environment and volunteering for good causes. In either case, it is good to be aware of the resources available to you. If you are a student of Ohio University, you are fortunate to have a wide variety of resources at your disposal…you just have to know where to look!
The Office of Sustainability (ohio.edu/sustainability) is a great resource for anyone interested in volunteering, creating a workshop, getting a research project funded, living sustainably, networking, gaining professional development skills, etc. If you visit the office home page, you will currently find a chance to apply for funding to run a sustainability program for Earth Month in April. Students, faculty, and staff can apply for grants up to $500.
Are you interested in gardening? The Ecohouse residents (myself included) have been working with the Office of Sustainability to transform our private garden into a community garden space. If you are interested in having your own garden plot, you can find more information on the Office of Sustainability home page. A community garden plot may be adopted by a student group, a department, or an individual.
How about taking it a step beyond gardening at the Ecohouse….what about becoming an Ecohouse resident for the 2012-13 school year? I have been a resident of the Ecohouse for two years and would highly recommend the experience to anyone interested in learning more about green technology and sustainable living. The application process is quick and more information can be found at ohio.edu/ecohouse.
The wonderful opportunities mentioned here are just a tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to explore the recommended websites and discover new possibilities!