Aga Borkowska, '99, is an Environmental Earth Sciences Major and has earned a Certificate in Environmental Studies*. I interviewed her about her experiences within the Environmental Studies Department not only because we're friends, but also to give an example of how a student who would not necessarily choose Environmental Studies as a major might incorporate environmentalism into her or his academic career.
*Note that this option is no longer available.
Jeannine: Why did you decide to opt for a certificate in Environmental Sciences?
Aga: To begin with, Environmental Studies comes to environmentalism from the side of the academic spectrum in some ways, concentrating on literature and policy. In my experience, Environmental Studies gave me a "non-scientific" perspective, which complimented my major, Earth Sciences, perfectly. The science is necessary, but not always in the foreground. However, it is absolutely crucial to have both: without science, your opinions will be based entire on emotion or political convenience; and "pure" science alone cannot account for the interests and needs of the people who live on, off, and with the land. The Certificate in Environmental Studies is a combination of the two.
J: So, how does being an environmentally conscious person affect daily behavior?
A: Clearly, I'm more aware of my own behavior and what effects I can personally have on the environment, either positively or negatively, but generally the latter. I feel that there's always something more that you can do to cut down on your own waste and so forth and usually the barrier that stands between my knowledge of what I could do and actually doing them is daily, time-consuming hassle. Drawing the lines is a matter of time, I think: how much time do you have to devote to something that matters to you; not just here and there, but on a everyday basis so that it's constantly on your mind.
J: What is helpful to you in making better efforts at daily, environmentally conscious behavior? Or not?
A: Well, I think the more you hear about an issue, the more it influences you. For example the SPARC campaign. I saw the posters up about it and the Programming Assistant in the dorms would blitz us occasionally to remind us to turn off the lights when you leave the room, or turn off your computer when you know you won't be using it for a while. After a while, as you're leaving the room you think, hm, I should turn off the lights. And soon enough, it's just natural.
But a major problem is when you feel like you have the information and the intention, but then there are logistical snags that prevent you from carrying it all through. For example, we finally started saving and separating our plastics, instead of trashing them. So, after a few weeks, when we'd accumulated quite a lot, I trucked them down to the recycling area. And it was a mess! It was so disorganized and the different bins weren't labeled. So sometimes they do a good job of getting the message across, but the lack of facilities to carry the action through makes for real frustration.
J: Do you think environmental studies has affected how you'll live your life after Dartmouth?
A: Well, now that I'm going through a job search, I'm limiting myself to organizations and companies that have environmental concerns as part of their mission statement. I feel like I have the background, technically, to do lots of different things, but knowing about what needs to happen in the environment and having somewhat of a policy background at least and a huge personal stake in it, has made me want to direct my energies to the environment.
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