Hi there! I am Cameron Perkins, senior at the University of New Hampshire, though I am from Sandwich, Massachusetts. I study Philosophy and Sustainability with a love for the existential and the practical. I enjoy singing with my group The New Hampshire Gentlemen, who I have been with for a year now. My strong desire for sustainable change is driven by my past hobbies and my inordinate love for all squirrels.
Portfolio Part 1:
My time within the Sustainability Dual Major has provided me with a largely diverse set of experiences and thought processes that have only strengthened the bond between Sustainability and my primary major of Philosophy. I came into SUST 401 with a shaky footing, as my freshman year saw course loads that felt entirely alien to me. However, this course gave me a holistic understanding and appreciation of what sustainability was, what it had to offer to the world, not just people, and that in all levels of interaction we can and should start with a sustainable lens. For my own considerations, the three common pillars of sustainability peaked my curiosity. Coming from an environmental background in high school, I was initially perplexed of the lack of higher emphasis on the environment that was being shown with 401’s initial classes. Surely the environment must be protected at all costs to sustain ourselves. Where this is entirely correct, I had truly missed the significant connection between the institutions of man, our social systems, and the environment. I became enthralled with this strange network of interactions between people, the environment, and our economic systems, and the multilayered issues that come of sustainability. Sustainability, for me, went from asking something as simple as, “how can we better protect the environment?” to asking, “In what ways do our attitudes about our own impacts of consumption and our understanding of natural processes in nature cater towards a less efficient use of resources?” within the first two weeks of class.
A concept from this introductory course on surveying sustainability that has peaked my interests and guided how I consider all three pillars is that of resilience. Resilience refers to the ability for a system to recover from some type of disturbance. A forest being able to grow new planet life from the remains of a fire. Resilience for much of the history of this planet, at least in the environmental sense, was an inherent natural desire of a system to return to its equilibrium, such as with my favorite example described in 401. If a population of wolves grows in a system, the deer population can face a higher rate of elimination, cause the population to decrease. This will, with time, cause the population of the wolves to decrease as a competition has strung resources, or deer meat, too scarce. With a decrease in predators for the deer, the deer will be able to increase their population again, causing this system to cycle through periods of growth and lose. This balance of negative feedback loops is crucial to our understanding of sustainability, for the sake of people, the environment, and the economy. My favorite consideration within the realm of resilience revolves around the lack of strength harbored by humans to make a difference. Since the industrial revolution we have taken large steps away from the negative feedback loops we found ourselves in, having much larger control over the outcomes of actions within systems, destroying soils through monocropping, beginning to add pollutants to our systems, and general tipping the natural flow of things slowly into a less reliably resilient state. I find the ramifications of this particularly daunting consideration to be highly substantial and worth deep consideration within the sustainable field.
SUST 501 provided a much more technical and gritty path for sustainable thinking. I truly cannot think of sustainability without the concept of transdisciplinarity. I feel quite strongly about this notions, as it becomes a sort of game to consider what fields of study and practice should be at the table of consideration when searching for answers as well as carrying out sustainable policies and projects. In order to deal with an increase in storm surge and its potential impact of coastlines and coastline residences you would not simply consult an ocean engineer to say consider buffering the zone of impact. Unlike many disciplines that can do almost all practice and study within their own field, sustainability necessarily implies a diverse set of backgrounds and understandings to attempt to come up with the most sustainable ways to tackle all situations, from local building plans in a small municipality to dealing with a corporation’s impact on pollution in multiple states of operation. Being one if not the only Philosophy major within the dual major, I cannot begin to account for the connection between this discipline and that of sustainability. Critical thinking and deep consideration of the impacts of one’s involvement on an issue are at the core of how we should and do practice sustainability. I have found that I have grown substantially at my ability to analyze and assess different projects and cases within sustainability, as well as within my primary major, as well as my ability to engage with organizations and institutions, such as with one project in 401 where I reached out to a construction company, Dellbrook | JKS about their past sustainability homes and company buildings. These types of investigative and communicative skills are required to engage in good sustainability, something I am happy to see growth in from myself.
I see the project I am involved with for my Capstone, a UNH Sustainability Walking Tour, as a culmination of what I have considered important about my experience and UNH and my experience within the Dual Major. To undertake a project where, working with group members of different backgrounds and majors, we will provide a guided tour of the sustainable facets that UNH has to offer for incoming students, current students, and any interested parties. This project harbors a deep connection to my appreciation of the major and its impact on me, allowing me to give back to the university the excitement and awe that I had learning about just how great some of our sustainable practices at UNH are. What I am most ambitious for with this project is to, by learning what we already do, being able to see what more we could improve on. Though this is not a direct goal of my groups project, this project is also my own personal case study of what field I have a strong desire towards, sustainable consulting. By giving back to UNH with a tour it can use to promote even further its sustainable practices I will also get to learn each little effect we are having to make a difference, with the chance to even think of further ventures the school could take. My excitement for this project and to be working with the fine gentlemen I am will culminate into a strong end product, one that I am ready to make an impact on.
Portfolio Part 2
Undoubtedly the elective that I took for the Sustainability Dual Major were among my favorite course I took at UNH. The fact that we are given so many options to choose from and asked to pick five is incredibly liberating and beneficial to a student building their own experience. My experience in these classes were invaluable to framing the way I think today and how I consider my actions and place as apart of a growing philosophical lens we use to tackle sustainable issues. Starting with my third favorite, Introduction to the Energy Grid highly shaped the way in which I took my sustainable career. This class entailed learning the basics and intricacies of our energy systems. Never before had I been familiarized with how our energy systems work, how the price for energy varies during the day, etc. This class was a big step for me in terms of learning about systems I am unfamiliar with, but in the end gave me the realistic overview of what is necessary Second in my ranking was Nature Writers. The course content revolves around study some of the most prominent nature writers from the last couple hundred years, assessing the ways in which they described natural characteristics and thoughts they had or observed within the world around them. As a philosophy major I am used to reading highly dense works that take a toll on the mind, the readings for this class were always incredibly engaging. Whether it was a description of a single plant within a garden or a chronicle of a month long hike through the Appalachian Trail, I always learned something unique and important about an author's considerations and appreciation in the world. Many times I began to appreciate something I myself had not considered to be worthy of appreciation. This class gave me a much more holistic sense of people, their desires, and their appreciations. A willingness to hear other people’s stories and perspectives is without question a skill that is necessary to promote and take part in dealing with sustainable issues, especially when working across disciplines to solve a problem. There has never been a class that has had as much of an impact as Sustaining Ancient Rome did on me. The professor, Professor Curry, was the most enigmatic and fun professor I have had the pleasure of meeting and studying under. This class consisted at looking at the sustainability issues that premiated ancient Rome, resorting in the fall of one of the greatest empires in history. This class showed me quite specifically how the characteristics of a culture that are held dear can be the demise of that same culture. By being able to study a culture that actually fell apart for their improper practices I have been able to assess and consider our own situation within the world, specifically the United States, with a completely different mindset. My favorite part of the entire class was one of our final exams. The last question allowed us to take on the role of a tribe leader who was attempting to take over Rome. Using the areas of sustainability we studied in class, we were tasked with systematically taking down the great city. This was a wonderful display of how we might work in the opposite direction, instead of destroying a civilization using what we know about other failed states to sustain our own. This class was derived on a creative mindset and gave me without a doubt the most holistic experience out of all my sustainability electives.
Portfolio Part 3:
As described in my last post, Sustaining Ancient Rome, or rather “Environment, Technology, and Ancient Society: Sustaining Ancient Rome Ecology and Empire” was arguably one of the most influential classes I have ever taken. This course allowed me to explore one of the greatest civilization in history in a light that I had never quite considered for an ancient society. Sustainability has and will always affect every single aspect of the world around us, and is certainly not a timeless discipline. When I initially read the content of the course I became instantly intrigued. I remembered something vague about the aqueducts that I had learned in high school involving lead poisoning, surely there could not have been more involved? I was beyond wrong in this consideration. Every facet of our own lives has the idea of efficiency involved, whether it is our impact on the environment, our ability to interact effectively with others, our incentives and goals in life. No class has given me the view into a world outside my own where I could analyze and appreciate what a well functioning society can and could look like. There were most certainly ways in which the Ancient Roman Empire practiced environmental responsibility. However, I can with much certainty say that Rome fell because it was unsustainable socially and economically, as well as environmentally.
The infrastructure, social ranking system, and lack of accountability within Rome were three of the areas that had the largest impact on the eventual downfall of the empire. Something as simple as poorly building housing and putting your poorest at the top knowing that fires were likely and that the poor would struggle to most to get out ensured a fear of situation for those just trying to better their own situations, thus resulting in a lack of trust between classes. This is simple yet highly applicable example of an idea that can be transcribed into a modern setting. Far too often harmful infrastructure is put in places where the poorer population resides. Should we not be able to learn from the errors of the past and prevent further disorder going into the future? The phrase “history repeats itself” is almost always stated negatively. However, through proper study and practice, we can change our future societies, infrastructures, and consideration about people, our economies, and our environment, in a way that that phrase could become a repetition of positivity. It is with this consideration that I thank Professor Curry for one of the most engaging and useful classes I have taken at UNH.
Portfolio Part 5:
The application of the skills and knowledge I have gained within this major will and have only furthered my love and interest with the field and practice of Sustainability. I took on this Dual Major because practices holistic efficiency for our people and our planet is as necessary as being able to eat, trade, and live within the natural world. My ability to critically consider and apply the knowledge and practices we have learned about and implemented through the the core Sustainability majors classes, such as that of systems thinking or conducting transdisciplinary research, will follow me into an ever growing and changing world that is outside that of the academic setting I am so familiar with currently. I know for a fact that I will be dealing with individuals of different backgrounds, areas of study and trade, and social settings. It takes a degree of humility, patience, and trust in others to efficiently find solutions to issues that are not black and white. Coupling this with the skills I have gained in my philosophical career here at UNH will allow me to be a team player as well as a mediator in any field I find myself in for the years to come. When it comes to careers, I find myself far too interested in far too many areas of employment. I am currently in a second round of interviews with a consulting firm out of Boston, where I would be working on a variety of projects involving interpersonal relationships with clients and employees. At the same time, I am highly interested in becoming a teacher of philosophy to high school students, as my high school experience with philosophy truly changed me, and I wish to potentially impact today’s youth in the same manner with the exciting and unique world of philosophy. Similarly, I am extremely interested in the nature of the types of philosophical debate that surround sustainability. Whether it is the definition of sustainability, how we should consider certain disciplines over others, or the concept of situation-based approaches to sustainable issues verse universalizable methods of problem solving, I cannot stop myself from pondering what it would take to become a philosopher of sustainability by title and profession. It has certainly been done to a degree, such as with Bryan Norton and Sahotra Sarkar, so it is certainly not impossible. However, I would need some form of income to realize this passion, as more than a bachelor's degree in philosophy or sustainability is certainly not enough. Though my future is uncertain, so is everybodies. The nature of causality is such that we cannot truly expect things to always work in the way we imagine they will, even if every instantiation of a phenomena that has occurred is consistent with a perceived known truth. Basically, we shall see where I end up, because nothing is determined.
Portfolio Part 6:
Working with Tim, Dean, and Sumner on this project was a wonderful experience. I have been given the chance to learn a lot about each of them and their own lives in a way I truly cherish. They are all fine guys that I am very happy to have met and had as friends and partners in this project. Coming from a predominantly Philosophy background I am familiar with writing very different styles of papers than the one we were presented for this project to construct. Find sources and things of that nature is certainly not new to me, but going about physically writing a scientific paper was something I have not done since the very beginning of freshman year. I brought this up very early on to establish that I would have a bit more difficulty with our write ups, something the group was more than willing to help with. Actively commenting on my writing on Google Docs, I was able to learn in what ways I was doing things differently, such as the way I would word our results section. I have begun to improve my writing in this way, and I am very thankful for the guys for that.
Once again coming from a philosophy background I was not familiar with working a project of more than two people, in fact for the most part every project I have had in college give our take two shorter assignments have I worked with others. Certainly final projects or something of the nature of this capstone. I found that the perspectives my group gave me were varied and just as if not more valuable often than my own, suggestions that would alter the way in which we, for instance, framed a research question. Many times we would easily agree on a particular notion, but there were times where we would disagree. At no point was there any hostility, pressure, or anxiety in any decision making. Every member of this group was open and willing to work with what truly seemed best, and even if we were all mistaken at times we were right back at it together finding a solution. Truly this team was one I am proud to be apart of.
These guys supported me in a strange part of my academic career. Finishing college has many anxieties attributed to it, and at times it can be difficult to manage everything around you. All of us were empathetic to what everyone else had coming on, and have continued to work in that manner, all helping each other out when necessary. If there was anything I learned from this experience and this project, it is that we as students have an incredible opportunity to build relationships that can create efficient, engaging, and fun working environments, something that inspires great work and collaboration. Going into projects with an open mind, a positive demeanor, and a drive to work and learn from your peers is crucial to success. Finishing this project will be fun and stressful at times, but I am enthralled to be apart of this and to finish college knowing our work will move forward.
If there is anything I could tell other about in regards to my experience in the Sustainability Dual Major and SUST 750, it would be these three things.
1. You are apart of something important.
The SDM at UNH provides the chance to take the primary major you wish to pursue and build upon it. In a multitude of ways I have been able to apply the concepts of sustainability into my philosophical ponderings of concepts of the mind and of ethics. Furthermore, I have been able to apply notions of philosophy into my sustainable work. Though this is not for me in the same way in which an economics student could use their knowledge gained from sustainability to solve, say, an issue that needs considerations of economic and social factors. For me, I find that how one thinks about a sustainable issues is as important as the problem being faced. Considerations of scale, effectiveness, and efficiency are in many ways linked to how we study the mind, social issues, and history in philosophy.
2. Take some electives you are heavily interested in, and ones that you are unfamiliar with/ think will challenge you.
My safe space of academia is literature. I read and I know things (thank you Tyrion Lannister). I took a couple of electives that gave me the opportunity to expand my sustainable considerations while also satisfying my desire to expand my literary and imaginary sphere. The visualizations of the excerpts we read in Nature Writers and the considerations of the people of Rome struggling enough for food to bow to anyone who was able to give food to more than their family in Sustaining Ancient Rome. These courses gave me exactly what I knew interested me and would build my literary knowledge and ability. At the same time I took it upon myself to take classes more geared towards the sciences. Considering my background in global environmental systems and energy systems was low, I decided to take Global Environmental Change and Introduction to our Energy Grid. I was given to opportunity to, for my major, dive into different realms of what interested me but with which I was largely unfamiliar, energy specifically. This dichotomy is an important balance not many students are given the liberty to explore with such a direction.
3. You will grow as a person.
Sustainability has many concepts attributed to it that can apply to the self in one's life. Whether it’s resilience, the concept of equity, or something as simple as approaching issues with a critical eye, sustainability allows one to grow their repertoire of skills and strengths. In many ways this major and the way it has grown my critical thinking have helped me with social situations and other areas of academia. Furthermore, all I have seen from the students I have in this major is how well rounded they all are.Good luck out there, and do not forget to take Sustaining Ancient Rome with Susan Curry.