I had the opportunity to take Professor Levesque's 401 and 501 Sustainability courses in the same semester. While some would say this was problematic because her 401 course is a prerequisite for the 501 course, I believe it benefitted me majorly. Sustainability 401 was mostly about predefining terms and significant processes studied within sustainability. This then allowed me to apply the terms and processes to the more interactive parts of sustainability in her 501 course, which significantly focused on problems and solutions of current case studies.
We started Sustainability 401 by writing our personal definitions of the word ‘sustainability’ in our notebooks. This was helpful in comparing initial thoughts with concluding thoughts by the end of the semester on the most important aspects of sustainability. It was a great way to acknowledge what we had learned about this relatively new educational perspective. The most reoccurring term that we learned in Sustainability 401 was of the three pillars. These are environment, social/equity, and economics. Each pillar addresses the major problems within sustainability that we aim to consider. Another way to think about these pillars is with the “Three P’s” referring to people, planet and profit. On top of the main terms, we also learned about energy. Whether that be energy of food trophic levels, water energy, photosynthesis or renewable energy. The last significant concept that we talked of was the importance of urban planning when it comes to population. Throughout the semester, each student had to create a personal sustainability project. I combined my personal project with research I was already doing in my Anthropology Ethnographic Research course on the stigma towards sustainability in the area. In that class I turned could-be recyclables that came from a trash can into an art project. This purpose was to prove that even when there is a recycling bin near a trashcan, people choose to not recycle. For Sustainability 401, I compiled a list of the sustainable practicing restaurants and made a personal goal to not use single-use materials related to food and food waste. Here is a final presentation of some key take-aways from my personal project combined with another studetns project that was similar to mine.
In Sustainability 501 we started the class off by breaking down the word sustainability. We talked of how it was a normative science, which means that it is mostly opinion based. We learned about the approaches to take when solving sustainability problems. For example, using inter/transdiciplinary research, collaboration, and the three phases of solving a problem. In this course, we attended many field-trips that focused on local sustainability problems. There were a few really important terms that we were able to elaborate on as we continued through the semester in order to ultimately help Professor Levesque write a text book reader for her upcoming sustainability courses. The purpose being that sustainability is a new science and there aren’t many reliable text books to use for our education. We separated into different groups to each tackle a chapter of her reader. I personally was able to work on the importance of collaboration in sustainability with my group partner Jake Beanland. Here is the link to our collaboration chapter.
From the combination of these two courses I gained a more collaborative way of thinking and approaching problems. I also gained the importance of integrating and applying research to actually create solutions. Together these courses helped produce a framework that will help to research and hopefully solve UNH’s recycling issues.