Of all the many topics we covered throughout this semester, it’s hard to narrow it down to a single one that affected me the most. There were definitely themes that we talked about that came up in every single case study, and pretty much changed how I look at everything going on in our world today. Our food and agriculture section affected my views on organic and local products, and the ocean section changed how I choose the seafood I eat. However, the issue that I was most interested with throughout the course was the importance of biodiversity. We touched on this specifically more towards the end of the semester, but it appeared much more often then I realized. With agriculture, monoculture crops have the power to suffocate ecosystems even though it may seem the best course for high yield. Deforestation is characterized by a loss of biodiversity, and replanting mono-cultures of trees does little to bring the thousands of original species back. Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction, gave a really interesting interview that we saw in class on just how much we should be concerned with the loss of species in our world. This interview, on Fresh Air radio and transcribed in the article, describes which actions that humans have done over the past century have led to such a sudden decrease in the amount of known species. Yes, it is true that species go extinct all the time and entire ecosystems for the most part do not collapse, but adapt and survive. However, the rate at which species have been disappearing has accelerated enormously as the human population grew and started adding things like emissions and pollutions.
There are so many species that we have yet to uncover, and it is a shame that we may not discover their potential or importance to the environment before it is too late. This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about, and plan on continuing to pursue.
This course as a whole definitely brings you down to earth on the reality of the problems we face. They are serious and they are numerous, and we have impacted or caused all of them. I was prepared to feel extremely pessimistic about humanity as a whole, but what surprised me were all the communities and groups out there who are just as passionate and have been taking action for decades. Not to mention that there have been successful cases, such as the decline of DDT. Walker & Salt point out just how “the empowerment of locals and, at the same time, the development of governance at a larger scale can contribute To a regions resilience”(138). I choose to interpret this as governance on environmental issues because will only be solved when people get involved and for the most part, the best way to do this may be to fight within the system. If I have learned anything from this course, it is just how important individual choices can be, from demanding to know where your food has come from , or boycotting a product because of how it was made. One of the other important factors was the accessibility of information. I have been lucky in what I learned in this class and plan to pass it on to friends and family, hopefully opening their eyes to problems and create new solutions.
Salt, David. Walker, Brian. (2006) Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World. Island Press.