In the spring of 2022, I took an honors seminar focused on addressing the controversial topics surrounding climate change. It was an opportunity for students of many different majors to voice their opinions and have discussions about many aspects of the issues, including friendly debates and group work. I truly appreciated this class because it made me rethink my own opinions and conversation tactics, while also providing me with unique perspectives from guest speakers. To begin, I have always been rather cynical about climate change. When I’m away from school, whether it be at work or home, I feel like I’m having to prove its existence to others. I have found myself desperately trying to convince people that this problem exists, and I never get around to strategizing about solutions. This class showed me what it could be like when I go to work in the environmental field where climate change is an accepted fact, rather than a belief. It felt amazing to hear different ideas and thoughts about renewable energy, urbanization, and even the skill of communicating environmentalism to the general public.
This seminar also helped me realize that some of my own thinking was close-minded, which was somewhat difficult for me to comprehend. When thinking about climate change before the course, I felt like I knew all of the answers to this crisis. I was frustrated that we as a society weren’t immediately converting to sustainable energy, buying organic food, and driving electric cars. Despite this, hearing other people’s struggles and experiences helped me realize that it is simply impossible for everybody to live sustainably. I’ve known the issue is systemic and complex, and singular individual actions won’t be enough to fix the problem. However, I’ve gained a better understanding of what needs to be done in order to make a healthy shift to sustainability. As an environmental studies major, I haven’t learned much about the financial or political technicalities regarding the environment. There were many business students in the seminar, and just hearing their opinions on issues helped open my mind about the different areas of sustainability. It was so interesting to learn how to save the environment while also maintaining a healthy economy, which is something I have never truly thought about.
While this seminar was an amazing place to learn from others, I was also faced with challenges that will help me grow as a professional. Four of my peers and I participated in a debate with another group on nuclear energy, and whether it is ethical to use as a renewable energy source. My group was arguing against nuclear energy, and we had fifteen minutes to present our case. I am personally not in favor of nuclear energy, so I assumed this assignment would be rather easy if I went off what I knew. However, I realized that much more goes into preparing for a debate than I would have thought, especially on ethical topics. During the debate, I brought up issues of risks, costs, and Uranium disposal. Even with many statistics about death and cancer from radiation, I struggled trying to counter the other team. In my mind, nuclear energy was simply unethical. In their minds, nuclear energy is one of the most reliable and cheapest ways to gain energy. It felt impossible trying to outweigh the costs with moral code, and I learned a lot of the experience. I finally understand how politicians and activists feel when trying to convince conservative Senators and governors to switch to sustainable practices. Sometimes, it is unfathomable for someone to choose ethics over cost. This debate helped me realize that if I were to go into environmental policy or law, I would need to prove that sustainability is more financially viable in the long run This might require me to do calculations for hundreds of years in the future, but it is necessary to prove to money-oriented people that it is the right choice. This debate taught me how to verbalize my opinions with getting defensive or aggressive, while also standing my ground and being proud of my viewpoint.
Overall, this seminar helped me grow to communicate openly and efficiently about climate change. I learned how to keep an open mind and remember that everybody comes from different backgrounds and experiences. I also learned how to strategically express myself to effectively prove my point but give others an opportunity to speak for themselves. It was an amazing experience to have, and I’m excited to use these skills in my future career.
We had weekly assignments to use our knowledge and social media platforms to spread awareness about climate change. Here are some of my Instagram stories that I posted, with lots of positive response!