There are two separate majors that can prepare you for environmentally-oriented careers: environmental science and environmental studies. In the midst of all of the other confusion you are bound to feel as you try to determine what to do with your life, this is an unwelcome addition. Let’s sort it out.
This documentary touches on a variety of topics, though I found the treatment of Brazil’s biofuel program to be particularly worthwhile.
The San Diego Botanic Garden has a very cool bamboo garden. This is a place worth visiting. The entrance is a bit steep at $14, but ask about a student discount.
Not long ago, a student of mine took an active interest in bamboo as a building material and is now studying alternative architecture. He pointed me in the direction of this TED talk, which is fascinating. I love the fluid lines of the buildings. For more inspiration, check out the GreenSchool of Bali.
Travel on the cheap by connecting with local organic farmers and putting in a little work in exchange for room and board. It’s called WWOOFing. It happens all over the world. Check it out here.
Actually, several of them. There may have been a Grandpa in there as well.
Many people in academia are familiar with a wonderful little tongue-in-cheek study that was done to assess the probability of certain relatives dying at various times of the semester. It’s called the Dead Grandmother Problem. It was written up in research format and the findings seem to suggest that familial mortality is linked to challenging academic undertaking s such as exams. I might add that discussing troubling and controversial topics such as climate change may have the same overall effect. You can read that study here.
Each spring, I take my environmental science field course students out on a charter to track the annual grey whale migration along the west coast. We don’t always see whales, but this was a good year. As soon as we were out of the harbor we spotted one grey and then quickly fell in to tracking a separate grey whale pair.
My students often ask if we always see whales, and I reply that there is no guarantee but that we usually see loads of dolphins and that they are a better show anyway. Of course, the students are programmed to want to see a whale and there is nothing I can do about that. Sadly though, the whales are just not quite as charismatic as some of the other marine mammals. Especially, when you are on a large tour boat with a hundred or so passengers. When you are on a small boat, say in the Baja Peninsula and can get up close and personal, things can be very different.
Tracking the whales was a great experience for the students. Later on in the trip though, the good people at Newport Whales, the tour company I always use for this adventure, invariably try to track down a rambunctious group of dolphins to make sure that the customers have all gotten their money’s worth. It’s a cool trick too. Seeing the dolphins frolic is a value-added spectacle. No one really pays to go dolphin watching – that’s for whales. But in the end, seeing a whale from a distance, while magical, may fall short of expectations.
I always advocate for more dolphin interaction. And I share this with my students. ‘The point of today’s excursion is to witness the grey whale migration, but what you may find more fascinating are the other marine mammals who find it entertaining to play around the boat.’ Can you imagine? A wild animal swimming freely in the ocean that finds us entertaining?
The concept of biophilia always comes to the surface when I am on this trip. EO Wilson expounded on this concept to explain the innate sense of connection that people feel with nature. I don’t know of any better place to really witness this than in the presence of another species that is playing; enjoying itself in a parallel world; connecting with us so directly. I see this every year when I am out on the water, as I witness the spontaneous smiles that brighten the faces of all of my students. It’s brilliant and wonderful.
If you are interested in getting out on the water to see some of the local or the migratory marine mammal action in southern California, consider Newport Whales. They have always been a wonderful tour operator to work with.