During my junior year at CSUMB, a very influential course that I took was Critical Thinking and Communication in Environmental Science. The primary objective in this course was to find a controversial local issue and conduct a case study on it. I chose the proposed development, the Monterey Downs, on Fort Ord open space. I started my case study with this question in mind: “what are some ways the local community can conserve the Fort Ord open space while creating economic benefits?” Attempting to find a solution to this controversy was very important to me for multiple reasons. First, this Monterey Downs development would be a half mile from my school. Second, I found it a bit upsetting that there are multiple areas with dilapidated buildings in the community that the developers were not considering for the project. I found it unnecessary to clear beautiful open space on Fort Ord for this development, when there’s plenty of alternatives.
Completing this policy analysis greatly enhanced my critical thinking skills because in order to present my suggested policy options, I had to first analyze and understand the other side of the argument. I had to validate all sources verifying both my opinion and the opposition’s, which required an extensive analysis of evidence. Evaluating my own personal position, as well as my limitations, involved critical thinking as well, because they had to be acknowledged in the case study in order to demonstrate legitimacy.
Countless experiences that occurred while I was involved with this case study contributed to my overall knowledge and skill set. Conducting this case study enhanced my overall knowledge of how development affects natural areas. Specifically, I gained a better understanding of how development alters the hydrologic response of natural areas. I also gained a greater understanding of the maritime chaparral habitat. Assessing policy options is something I foresee doing eventually in my career, so I’m glad I have such in depth experience doing so. Professionally, I will also be able to better assess situations in an unbiased manner. The only thing I wish I’d done differently is I wish I’d had the time to meet with more people from the “pro-Downs” perspective. While my opinion probably would not have changed, I always appreciate a better understanding of other opinions.