My primary career goal is, at the end of my career, to feel as if I’ve made a widespread and enduring impact on our societal structure regarding sustainability. I have many different career paths in mind to reach this goal, including: marine conservation, environmental law, investigative journalism and writing, LEED consulting, general environmental consulting, international policy/diplomacy, resource management, and environmental advocacy.
I am, and have been, influenced by my surroundings every day in my decision to pursue this goal. I am encouraged by every person making an effort to divest our culture of carbon emissions and gas-powered vehicles, as well as every person who only seeks profit from these societal afflictions. From an early age, my mother instilled a “no waste” mindset which always seemed prominent in my family growing up in Wisconsin. She would never throw ice in the drain, rather she’d let it melt and water plants with it. She never threw food away, saving even the tiniest morsels for another day. Also, much of my family still hunts and fishes, and I’ve seen that doing so provides a more intimate understanding of the earth’s resources. It takes energy to create them as well as energy to harvest them, and no part is to be wasted.
Without a doubt, the primary reason I decided to focus my education and career on environmental issues is my love of the ocean. I’ve been living by or visiting coastal areas since I was born, and I’ve always been both intrigued by and in love with it. When I started becoming more aware of issues such as ocean dumping, ocean acidification, and fishery mismanagement, all other possible career choices no longer seemed that they’d make enough of an impact. Even if I’m not working directly for marine conservation (which I hope to in the future), any positive impacts I could be having on the ocean are constantly on my mind working in other realms such as waste management or emission reductions.
Where I’ve worked in the past has also shaped my career goals for the future. I’ve worked in three different UPS Stores (in Arizona, Southern California, and Central California), and only one had a recycling system (that only recycled cardboard). Often, I would pick through the trash and pull out recyclable items, such as phone books and various paper products, and take them home to recycle. This experience made me realize how inefficient our waste system is as well as how unaware most people are of what they throw in the garbage. Seeing this lack of awareness, and having to pick through trash, definitely helped influence my choice to pursue a career in sustainability.
Last, and in no trivial way, there was one movie that intensely influenced my career choice: Erin Brockovich. While I’m sure many people have seen this movie, I doubt it impacted everyone the way it impacted me. This was my first introduction to the concept of environmental injustice, and it made an impression to say the least. Seeing the ecological and environmental injustices certain companies/people are capable of was shocking to me at the time (when I was about 15). However, it was seeing that one determined and capable person could stop it that gave me hope. I decided I would be one of those people.
My career goals will require specific knowledge and skills from many areas of the academic spectrum. The most relevant knowledge and skills necessary include: global ecology, marine ecology, environmental policy, biology, public speaking, negotiation, writing, climate science, fundraising, and environmental science. An assignment that enhanced my knowledge in nearly all of these categories was a case study I conducted, while enrolled in the Critical Thinking & Communication in Environmental Studies class at CSUMB, on developing a portion of the Fort Ord open space. I became very familliar with certain environmental policies, and better acquainted with environmental policy in general. In order to better understand the issue, for my Service Learning during that same semester, I became involved with the Communities for Sustainable Monterey County (CSMC) – Sustainable Seaside. Because of my role at certain events, this experience helped me better develop public speaking skills.
My knowledge and skills have also been improved through various other classes throughout my college experience. I’ve taken various biology courses, however the most beneficial was the Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity course I took at CSUMB. Not only did I gain field work experience (involving plant identification and creating cross-sections), but I also improved my scientific writing through writing a comprehensive paper on diatoms and an in depth lab report on dune restoration field work conducted. I’ve also taken various environmental science courses. My junior year, I was in an Intro to Environmental Science class and I gained experience in water quality testing. My team and I drove to El Estero (a small lake by a dog park and skate park) for a few weeks during class and tested the water for: fecal coliform, phosphate, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. Through this experience I gained a better understanding of how certain aspects around an area can affect water quality. For example, there was a high fecal coliform level at El Estero; my team and I hypothesized that the dog park could have been a primary contributor.
Through service learning with CSMC – Sustainable Seaside, I gained a substantial amount of skills and knowledge. Sustainable Seaside fundamentally focuses on directing the community towards sustainability. While I was involved, they had been focusing their efforts on the issue of the Monterey Downs development on the Fort Ord open space and publicizing use of the Fort Ord National Monument. The main argument against the Monterey Downs was that developing the Fort Ord open space would be an environmental injustice to the people, as it brings in tourism revenue and is widely used for recreational purposes by the local community. It would be an ecological injustice because the development would require at least 39,000 Coast Live Oaks to be cut down, disrupt the hydrologic response of the area, and cause damage to the maritime chaparral habitat. Sustainable Seaside approached the issue as both an environmental and ecological injustice.
My community-based learning with Sustainable Seaside primarily consisted of attending meetings, helping with community events, working with the Fort Ord Access Alliance to get initiative signatures, as well as attempting to start my own project. At the beginning of my service learning, I had an idea to get all the businesses in the area to recycle. I talked with my boss of the UPS Store I was working at during that time as well as contacted the local waste management facility for advice. I then proceeded to bike around Seaside interviewing as many business owners or managers as I could find to see if they’d be open to recycling. Unfortunately, after doing so, I realized that many people don’t want to or were a bit too indifferent to put any effort into recycling. This experience made me realize that some ecologically beneficial measures may have to be forced, and got me thinking about directing my career path towards environmental policy. This experience also gave me a valuable reality check on how difficult social change really is and how hard I’m going to have to work in order to influence it.
I believe that my involvement with Sustainable Seaside and my efforts with my capstone project are quite important to my professional development. The best way to understand how to influence the fundamental issues that our system is based upon, is to be directly involved. Until you completely immerse yourself in an issue, you cannot change it.
Photo 1: http://www.hdwallpapersinn.com/beautiful-nature-photography.html
Photo 2: http://beinghappygirl.blogspot.com/2012/05/there-are-blessings-in-rain.html