SUST 401: Surveying Sustainability
Sustainability 401 taught me about how environmental, economic, and social justice issues are all connected. We explored these issues as a class, learning how specific grand challenges in sustainability are related to the environmental, social justice, and economic pillars. We looked at sustainability issues such as food and agriculture, water scarcity, climate change, and energy and were offered potential solutions to each. The class opened my eyes to systems thinking as an approach—helping me to understand the complexity of the relationships that exist in our world in the context of sustainability. This class taught me that tackling these difficult and complex sustainability challenges requires holistic, place based, and collaborative efforts.
Something I enjoyed from my SUST 401 class experience were the mini on campus field trips. These field trips supplemented class learning which real world examples of sustainability practices happening at the University of New Hampshire. We did field trips to the UNH co-generation power plant, stormwater research facility, and the aquaponics center. The trip that was most memorable for me was to the aquaponics greenhouse. There, UNH researchers worked to create a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed Tilapia fish was used to grow lettuce hydroponically. This process is sustainable as the plants are used as feed for the fish and the waste of the fish gives nutrients to the lettuce to grow. This system poses solutions for many of the issues we discussed in class tied to traditional methods of agriculture. The aquaponics system didn’t use any chemicals or pesticides, didn’t require expensive feed for the fish, and used about 1/10th the amount of water that traditional soil-based farming require. These field trips opened my mind to how addressing issues with a sustainable systems thinking approach can help solve many of the issues we had learned about in the first part of the class.
As my first semester of Sustainability progressed, the class was exposed to different approaches to sustainability. It became evident that each student thought about the wicked problems posed by sustainability through different lenses, incorporating existing knowledge from primary majors, clubs, and lived experiences. We all had different majors and passions, but we were brought together by our passion for sustainability and desire to make a difference. I love how the Sustainability major is a tight knit community, and I have found great value in growing and learning with my peers over the last four years. This attitude of valuing diverse and shared knowledge has provided a framework for engaging with people across disciplines as well as involving stakeholders in tackling sustainability grand challenges.
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