After taking SUST 501: Sustainability Perspectives and Methods, I gained a much greater understanding of how sustainability problems are present in the real world and what strategies stakeholders can use to provide solutions for them. My favorite part of SUST 501 was the field trips we took; we visited Wagon Hill Farm to learn about their living shoreline project, NH Seacoast locations to discuss the Tides to Storms project, and Hampton Beach to understand citizen science and beach profiling. Seeing these locations in person allowed me to clearly visualize which locations are vulnerable to flooding and other natural disasters because of climate change.
Tides to Storms field trip - beach in Rye, NH
Beach profiling field trip to Hampton, NH
Visiting the Strawbery Banke museum on the Tides to Storms field trip was particularly interesting because I am minoring in history and believe that historical artifacts and locations like this should be preserved for future generations to learn from. The museum helps people today learn what life was like for Americans many years ago and how life has changed in some ways, yet also stayed the same. This field trip helped me understand how sustainability issues affect everyone and truly require collaboration from stakeholders from many different backgrounds. For instance, when it comes to preserving historical sites, some of the sustainability strategies that may be commonly used may be irrelevant because of the specific knowledge needed from historical building preservation specialists. I was surprised that even something like history, that seems so far removed from sustainability content, is definitely relevant in developing solutions to today’s sustainability challenges. Here is more information on Strawbery Banke's sustainability efforts.
Strawbery Banke Sea Level Rise poster
In addition, visiting a Hampton, NH neighborhood on the Tides to Storms field trip and discussing how residents there are affected by flooding was a powerful experience. Seeing these locations in person had a far greater impact than only discussing them in class. Understanding that actual people who I might know can be directly affected by sea level rise helped make climate change more tangible instead of just being a keyword in a textbook. This gave me insight into the social side of sustainability and how people’s daily activities can be disturbed and changed because of climate change, and how it is unfair that some people must face more of the negative consequences of these events than others.
Another way that this class increased my knowledge was through the further development of my collaborative and research skills. At the end of the semester, we worked in small groups to create textbook chapters for an open access resource called Sustainability Methods and Perspectives. I had never written a textbook chapter before, and although the task was daunting at first, I learned valuable skills such as finding research, evaluating sources, and explaining topics clearly. My group wrote our chapter on Ethics in Sustainability, and we had to do all of the work on our own because there weren’t any current outlines from previous classes on the topic.
Since creating this textbook was such a large task, it also required strong communication and understanding among our group. As a result of this project, I strengthened my collaborative and research abilities, which are definitely skills that will be important for post-graduate work, no matter what field I enter. Knowing how to work and communicate with others is something that you cannot learn in one day; you need to continue to hone this over time. Building these skills is something that I work on every day, whether that be for each of my jobs, other on-campus positions, and classes.
SUST 501 was a great learning experience, and I enjoyed returning to the community of sustainability students that I had met in SUST 401 as well as meeting new people. Everyone came from a variety of different majors, and I most likely would not have met many of them if we hadn’t all been enrolled in the dual major. There were even students who were in my major who I would not have met if it hadn’t been for the sustainability program. This opportunity to be around like-minded people from varying backgrounds and engage with them in a collaborative context is truly unmatched and something that not many students get to experience. I have not had many other classroom experiences like this during my time at UNH; SUST 501 helped make both my SDM and UNH experiences truly unique and rewarding.