Caitlin Burnett

SUST 750 Reflection

This semester, I've been working on a collaborative project as a part of my capstone. Click here to learn more about the project and my thoughts on SUST 750 and my SDM journey so far.

A Future in Sustainability

Sustainability plays an important role in thinking about my plans for the future. Click here to learn about how I'll apply what I've learned in the SDM to my next steps in life.

Connections to Anthropology:

The Sustainability Dual Major must be paired with a primary major. Click here to learn about how I've taken the lessons I've learned from Sustainability and applied them to my Anthropology major.

SDM Elective Spotlight

Click here to learn about Cultural Sustainability and Public Archaeology.

Sustainability Electives

Click here to learn about three of the SDM electives I've taken at UNH!

 

SUST 401 & 501 Reflection

My introduction to the Sustainability Dual Major (SDM) program was abrupt and impulsive. I remember the moment well: I was sitting in my first class of the morning during the first week of my sophomore spring semester, already anxious about an assignment I had due for another class, and realized I hated the program I had chosen as a dual major. Within a few hours, I had read about the Sustainability Dual Major, sent out emails, dropped classes, and declared Sustainability. Looking back, it was the best academic decision I’ve made for myself here at UNH.

SUST 401 brought me into a community of like-minded students that cared about the environment and making a positive impact toward a better future. The course first looked at a general sustainability overview: what does sustainability mean? How are sustainability concepts applied to social, economic, and environmental realms? Why does sustainability matter? After we had established a basic understanding of what sustainability is, we moved into looking at a variety of challenges through a lens of sustainability. Some of these challenges included agriculture, habitat loss, and energy. Each of these areas involves complex problems with no single solution but that sustainability concepts could help address and improve. For me, the most valuable aspect of the course was learning about systems thinking. A crucial part of thinking about sustainability is understanding the complex web of relationships between and within environmental and human realms. Any small change can have complicated and far-reaching effects.

Throughout the semester, we worked on a personal action project of our choice, requiring us to make a sustainable lifestyle change. Some students took shorter showers, stopped eating meat, or reduced their waste. When thinking about complex problems like climate change, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless. My takeaway from this project was that it is always possible to make change on a small, personal scale while advocating for the large changes needing to come from the government or corporations. I spent a month trying to reduce the amount of food waste I produced, the lessons of which I still carry with me today especially as I spend more time living on my own and cooking for myself. 

SUST 501 was a far different experience from SUST 401. While the focus had been on sustainability challenges, this course delved into how we actually address those challenges in meaningful and productive ways. Because of how complex and intertwined systems are, every challenge brings a wide variety of people that are impacted in different ways. SUST 501 underscored the need for collaboration to achieve sustainable solutions. We learned about equity, the value of different ways of knowing, and the best practices for bringing many voices to the table. Bringing these voices together can happen on a spectrum of collaborative involvement and can take the form of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research as well as citizen science projects.

This class also stepped outside the boundaries of a typical classroom experience, as we took three fieldtrips off campus throughout the semester. Through the fieldtrips we were able to see collaborative sustainability projects in action, from coastal resilience to salt marsh protection to citizen science beach profiling.

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The latter part of the course was spent working collaboratively in small groups to write a chapter for a reader on sustainability methods. This not only helped to demonstrate our knowledge on a particular topic, but also helped us to learn how to communicate about sustainability issues and solutions to the broader public. I worked on a chapter about citizen science:

"This chapter introduces a relatively new method of scientific research, citizen science. It will explain how citizen science brings together the scientific community and the public to accomplish research goals. This chapter will briefly describe the history  and development of citizen science, successful practices in citizen science projects, how citizen science is used in coproduction of knowledge and transdisciplinary research, the benefits and challenges of utilizing this method, and will look at several examples of successful citizen science projects."

This course taught me more than just about the challenges facing our world today. I was able to begin to learn about the many ways that groups of people can work together to solve these problems and to make changes that are both meaningful and sustainable. 

Both of these classes have set the tone for the rest of my work in this program. Even in my electives and as I begin my capstone project, I think about the complexity of issues and the importance of the people you work with to addressing those issues. I reflect on the need for equity in collaborative projects. I think about spending just as much time listening as I do talking. I view the choices I make as part of a larger web, each action having impacts that I can't imagine. I'm excited to see where these lessons will guide my project this semester!

 

 

 

 

Hi folks! My name is Caitlin Burnett. I’m currently a junior Anthropology and Sustainability Dual Major with a minor in International Affairs and am from the small town of Conway, Massachusetts. My undergraduate research has focused primarily on the ways that storytelling and local ways of knowing can be used to share information about environmental issues in culturally relevant and sustainable ways. In January of 2019 I had the opportunity to travel with a team to Goa, India to work with local students to create podcasts documenting environmental issues in their communities, following a 2017 project with rural farmers’ experiences of climate change in Bhutan.  Outside of school I love to hike, trail run, and read a good book.

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