160 Portfolio

I won’t lie and say this has been an easy semester for me. Like most first-year students, I’ve never been to college before, so I was figuring that out. Unlike most of the other freshmen, I have learning disabilities that make me fun to talk to but horrible at performing in society. Sorry if this is too personal, but I was diagnosed with a condition I will have for the rest of my life this semester, and for some reason everyone got cancer. Guess that’s college.

I very much enjoyed ENVS 160, or Intro to Environmental Studies for those unfamiliar. While I personally lean further on the STEM side of ENVS, this course taught me a new way of thinking about problems and how they’re presented. Environmental studies is bigger than I thought it was before, and I already knew it was pretty big. 

But what did I, Gil Odgers, learn in ENVS 160? Well, I learned that I am essentially majoring in how the whole world works together, and how can we make that better. It’s beautiful, and I want to dedicate my life to it. I was also radicalized, but that was just a college thing in general. 

The course fittingly started off asking what are the boundaries of Environmental studies, which I talked about in my post aptly named “The Boundaries of Environmental Science.” In retrospect, it was a pretty short and not very interesting post, and I feel that if I revisited it now, I could do it more justice, now that I’ve climbed a bit higher on the metaphorical mountain of higher education.

My next post was “The Tragedy of the Commons and Why We Are All Awful.” This is when I first started poking around the nuances of classic and contemporary environmental thought. I was struck with Ostrom’s rebuttal of Hardin’s argument, as previously I saw the discussion as not up for debate at all, as I had been taught in high school. After reading Ostrom, I realized that most things actually should be criticized for the sake of furthering the argument. 

As the course moved towards sustainability, I read an article that got me very fired up about strawberries and farming practices, something I am particularly passionate about, as you can clearly see in, “Are the Strawberries Worth It? A Lesson On the Complexities of Sustainability.” More important than my strawberry rant was my introduction to the broadness of the term sustainability, and how some things just aren’t sustainable in the way we would hope. 

Love Your Monsters was a lot to read. Not necessarily in length, but definitely in depth and outright confusion. I feel like I express this sentiment pretty clearly in “Love Your Monsters: aka What’s Going On With All That Stuff in There.” We had a question and answer segment with some upperclassmen ENVS majors where we talked about Love Your Monsters, and it was difficult coming up with questions just because there was so much to unpack. However, it did make me consider how humans treat their clumsy collective steps into the future, which I hadn’t thought about before.

One day I came into class, and there was a slideshow running of pictures of Swaziland, and the ENVS students that went there. Reading the report for the data they took on environmental health really interested me and made me realize that sometimes the problems are so big, you have to look at a smaller one first to get the picture. I wrote about this in my article “The World is Too Big and Too Complicated: The Importance of Situating in ENVS.”

The idea of situating came in handy when considering the ICP report released this year that reeks of panic. Once again I was thinking about complexities of moving forward, and what that means, and why change is so scary. My post, “Latest ICP Report Spells Doom Unless Immediate Action Taken, But What Will That Mean?” went over my anxieties and frustration about a lack of forwarding momentum in our very short window of actionable time. I link to a very fun video in that one. 

That next week we had the pleasure of having Daryl Davis come to speak for the ENVS symposium. The night before going to see him my roommate and I watched his Netflix documentary. It makes me feel like such a hot head listening to him, as it seems like he doesn’t let anything affect him. In my blog post, “Daryl Davis, the KKK, Environmental Studies Students, and Much Ado With Making Adversaries Friends,” you can get a sense of my mounting frustration with the world in general.

This frustration sparked a lot of excellent conversations with my dear friend and saving grace Fern, who is a sociology major. I read them quotes from my reading on environmental justice and once again discovered the span of ENVS. I mention this in my post “Race, Place, Dengue, and Mosquitoes: Situating Environmental Health and Justice.” A significant overlap I noticed with sociology, anthropology, and ENVS is how data is affected and connected to who is collecting it. 

Being a Good Neighbor Versus Playing God: Conservation, Spotted Owls, and You” continued my ongoing monologue about ethics, and how there are certain situations where “nature taking its course” is a more complicated philosophy, since humans have fundamentally changed what “nature” is. I still don’t have the right answer, and I don’t know if I ever will. 

Dirt Was So Last Season: Looking Forward in Agriculture” was my favorite post, since I felt like it was related enough for me to post a picture of my aquaponics tank. I have mixed feelings about GMOs, but not in the way you would think. I talked mainly about how capitalism ruins perfectly good things that can usher humanity forward, and yet we refuse. 

Lastly, for this semester at least, I made my post about environmental action, “Please, Someone, Do Something: Engaging in Environmental Action.” I reference my time organizing for a protest at my high school, and politics in general, which always hurts my brain, but I feel like I can speak with more of my own voice than I would have a couple of months ago. 

Like I said at the top, none of this semester was easy. I have regrets about how I acted regarding my academic performance, but I also know that so much of what happened this semester was randomly ill-timed. I learned so much though, and am so greateful for the opprotunity to take this class and have these disscussions. I feel like I’ve become more of a person this semester and I just grew a brain and started thinking. I feel like a little baby and 1000 years old. I’m scared and excited about what I can do in college, or what I can’t. Either way, I know I can come back here to rant about it. 

Thanks for the semester!