From the Director
If you have an interest in environmental issues and are looking to pursue an environmentally-related career, you need to know that environmental studies is fundamentally different from many other fields. It is an interdisciplinary field, as no single field is sufficient to solve real world environmental problems. The biologist, the chemist, the land planner, the legal advisor and many more scholars and professionals have many roles to play. Since no one person will be expert in every field, environmental professionals need to be fluent and to appreciate what each of these fields brings to the table. We need expert thinking but we also need to balance this with systems thinking and analysis. What use is an otherwise perfect solution if it turns out to be economically unfeasible or socially unacceptable? The moral, political, economic, and social dimensions of environmental issues must be addressed, along with the more obvious scientific and technical parts of the problem.
Education is the long term key to sustainable environmental progress. Almost all citizens are supportive of environmental progress and many have a real affinity for the beauty of the natural world. However, they often lack the understanding necessary to make informed, rational decisions about environmental affairs. This "problem of perception" is something that will always be with us, to one degree or another, but it doesn't mean we can't take action against it. We must always be prepared to answer people's questions and concerns. We need to bring them along with us on the road to environmental improvements. Taking the time and effort to make others part of the solution is a long term investment and will make for better long term solutions. Showing others how their own lifestyle and consumer choices affect the environment is also important. Everyone has a personal responsibility for many of our current problems, and everyone must therefore be involved in the solution.
Although we have made progress on some of the more visible environmental issues from the 1970s to the 1990s (especially in the United States), most of the really important issues are global in character and many remain. Much of what is happening today cannot continue indefinitely without some kind of radical restructuring of basic human and ecological systems. As a college student today, you will live most of your adult life in this critical period. We desperately need young leaders like you who are well versed in environmental issues to take charge and make the difficult decisions that will protect the natural world, while allowing human society to progress in sustainable ways. We need you to be fully informed and realize how you can actively contribute to a better life for all in the coming century.
I hope that you will ponder these points as you think about Environmental Studies as a possible academic field of study. Please contact me directly if you would like to comment on any of the above statements or if you would like information about Environmental Studies at St. John's.
With much hope and concern for the future and with a strong faith in you,
Dianella Howarth, Ph.D., Environmental Studies Program Director