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environmental studies Archives - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Posts Tagged ‘environmental studies’

Perspective on Religion and Ecology

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Photo credit: Ken Bennett

As a chemistry major with an environmental studies minor, I enjoy the chances I get to take classes that depart from the sciences. I have developed a great fondness for a course I am currently taking – Religion and Ecology, with Dr. Lucas Johnston. It has made me look beyond my knowledge of the environment, beyond my knowledge of religion, and realize that human history is not necessarily a story of the conflict between religion and nature. Religion and Ecology merges what seem to be two very different bodies of study into one, examining preconceived notions, and taking a deeper look into the impacts of each upon the other.

During the first weeks of class we addressed the intimate dance between the roots of various religions and the environment. The class is mainly discussion-based, and requires students to lead two of the classes in the semester on selected readings. The readings are captivating and diverse, covering topics related to environmental history in Eastern and Western religions, American romanticism, and radical environmentalism. We also read The Story of B by Daniel Quinn and essays from American Indian environmental activist, Winona LaDuke, who spoke on campus this semester. The final project for the course is the presentation of either an annotated bibliography on a topic of choice related to the course, or an engaged project which explores the relationships between religions and their habitats.

This class has given me a chance to discuss the history of how and why religions ranging from Christianity to Hinduism to Radical Environmentalism began, and what kinds of values shape these ways of viewing the world. Religions often define how nature should be viewed and valued, whether it is claiming “dominion” over the land, or connecting with the gods that reside in rivers and mountains. Conversely, there are also cases where habitats shape religious expression.

This class has caused me to examine more closely the culture in which we live, as well as other cultures and habitats around the world. For me, it’s more scientific than an anthropology class, more discussion-based than a religion class, and more historical than an environmental studies class. It links the human species with their habitats, and explores how the values we place on those habitats shape our lives and determine whether we thrive or struggle within them.

Contributed by Claire Nagy-Kato (‘14)


Where are they now: Emily Bachman

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Emily Bachman (’13) was a prominent contributor to Wake Forest’s sustainability efforts throughout her four years as a student. She served as the president of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), a shift leader and summer intern for Campus Kitchen, a regular volunteer in the Campus Garden, an intern with ARAMARK, where she worked to support sustainability in dining, and a semester-long intern with the Winston-Salem Sustainability Resource Center. In addition to her ambitious extracurricular activities, she completed a major in history with a double minor in environmental studies and anthropology.

After graduating last spring, Bachman took some time to travel. She spent two weeks in Israel with Birthright (accompanied by former fellow sustainability intern Sanders McNair) and six weeks driving across the country exploring several cities and national parks along the way.

Post-excursion, Bachman landed in Brooklyn where she is serving as the AmeriCorps Volunteer & Special Projects Coordinator for Rebuilding Together NYC. Rebuilding Together NYC is the New York City affiliate of a national nonprofit that is located in over 200 cities across the country. They are a “safe and healthy housing” organization, serving low income, elderly, handicapped, and veteran homeowners. They focus on critical home repairs including accessibility modifications for the physically disabled, and rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Additionally, Rebuilding Together NYC focuses on energy efficiency upgrades and weatherization to lower energy consumption in homes. She is also working on an independent project incorporating sustainable landscape design, including rain barrels and native plantings, into the organization’s future projects to support stormwater retention.

In the coming years Bachman plans to attend graduate school for a degree in Sustainable Urban Design and Policy and to find a career that allows her to pursue “city planning through a sustainable lens.” She says that being able to see different cities and compare the strengths and weaknesses of their designs while traveling has helped further develop and affirm her aspirations.

She says that her liberal arts education fostered her passion for sustainability and prepared her for post-collegiate life. “It taught me to think critically and holistically. My liberal arts education allowed me to explore my interests from a variety of perspectives and to understand the many different causes and potential solutions to the social and environmental issues we face today.”

What inspires you to be sustainable?

For as long as I can remember, sustainability has mattered to me. I value human life and I do not like the idea of people suffering, now or in the future. I understand that the way human beings, especially in the western world, are living today will cause suffering in the future. Rather than wait for the consequences and begin to react when it is too late, we should work immediately and proactively to develop sustainable lifestyles.

What is the biggest issue facing our generation?

Apathy. It is so obvious that we are doing things so wrong and that we need to change, but because most people are not confronted with the impacts of their unsustainable lifestyles directly on a daily basis, they are apathetic. They don’t care and they continue with the status quo. Not enough people are passionate enough.

What is your number one tip for living sustainably?

Don’t buy what you don’t need – I try to remind myself of this constantly, especially now that I am on an AmeriCorps stipend.

By Andrea Becker (’16), Staff Writer

Where are they now: Shelby Buso

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Shelby Buso ('02)

When WFU alumna Shelby Buso (’02) started her undergraduate career at Wake Forest University, she assumed she was embarking on a path to veterinary medicine. However, after earning a degree in anthropology, minors in environmental studies and Spanish, and a Juris Doctor and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School, Buso found herself on an alternative professional path. Now, as the Assistant Director of Transportation & Sustainability at Midtown Alliance – a nonprofit membership organization that has been the driving force behind the revitalization of Midtown Atlanta since 1978 – Buso works to cultivate sustainability in an urban context, working more with policy than animals.

Buso’s initial pull towards veterinary medicine stemmed from her innate affinity with animals and nature, which her coursework in Environmental Studies at WFU allowed her to explore. “I find my solace in nature and cannot imagine doing anything with my life that doesn’t involve preserving it,” Buso said. Internship opportunities with The MacKenzie Law Firm and ReefTeach, Inc. while attending WFU guided her work and passion. After graduating, Buso realized she could combine her areas of interest by working in environmental law. To test whether or not it was a path to which she wanted to commit, she obtained a paralegal certificate and worked as a paralegal for three years before attending Vermont Law School. During her graduate work she was involved in numerous student law organizations, studied abroad in Spain and Italy, and completed a semester in practice at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“At the beginning of my legal career, I believed I could make the most difference by preserving wildlife and large public lands,” Buso reflected. Upon graduating with a JD and Masters of Environmental Law and Policy, she moved back to Puerto Rico and worked as a law clerk. When Buso decided to move back to Atlanta a couple of years later, she knew she wanted to focus more attention on environmental policy and started working at The Clean Air Campaign. Atlanta’s interconnected environmental network allowed her to smoothly transition into her role at Midtown Alliance where she is able to continue her life’s pledge to preserve nature.

In her time at Midtown Alliance, Buso developed and co-authored Greenprint Midtown, a local sustainability action plan. One outcome of the plan is the development of the Midtown EcoDistrict. Working to join the collective of current EcoDistricts, which includes sustainability hallmark cities Portland and Seattle, Midtown Atlanta is implementing initiatives of its own to create what the organization describes as “a neighborhood of the future.”

Although her professional path has taken some twists and turns, she still believes her work contributes to conserving the nature she values. “Creating a sustainable infrastructure for people to thrive in, both professionally and personally, has given me a sense of purpose beyond the one I felt in the wilderness,” she said.

To this end, Buso has already worked on many programs that advance the goals of Greenprint Midtown and Midtown EcoDistrict: engaging property managers and building owners in the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, coordinating the installation of the first public space recycling program in the City of Atlanta, and creating a sustainability initiatives recognition program. Buso also manages Midtown Transportation Management Association, which works to increase the use of alternative transportation to and from Midtown.

Considering last April marked her one-year anniversary at Midtown Alliance, saying she has been productive would be putting it mildly. Still in the beginning stages of implementing Greenprint Midtown, Buso will have just as much to balance moving forward. She always finds the hard work worth it: “Being able to walk the streets and see work I influenced being done first hand is an experience that I feel lucky to enjoy.”

By Hannah Slodounik, Program Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability