Monday, July 31, 2017

Alternative lives: Science, Design, and Geography

As a small child, my plan was to become a marine biologist. I loved animals and the ocean. As I grew, my interests expanded but I continued to be interested in the environment and ecology. My major in college was environmental science. I thought that if people just had clear facts, we could convince everyone to do the right thing, and protect the environment. Over time realized that despite clear scientific evidence, humans often choose to prioritize other things.

After college, I began working in environmental education, thinking that education was the solution. If I could just get people to care about the natural world the way I did, to see the wonderful diversity of life the way I did, they would want to help protect it. I worked for almost a decade in science and environmental education. I enjoyed being outside, making science accessible to people, and sharing what I loved.

I ended up going to graduate school and becoming a geographer because of what I noticed visiting schools all over northern California. What I saw was the incredible disparities between schools and neighborhoods in terms of how much science education children got and even how much opportunity they had to play outside. Some neighborhoods were paved over and devoid of opportunities to learn about living things.

When I started graduate school, I wanted to become landscape architect and design enriching landscapes for children and youth. If I wasn’t a geography professor, I would likely be a landscape architect today. If it wasn’t for the financial crisis in 2008, which decimated jobs in landscape architecture, I might have continued and gotten a job in a design firm or with a planning office. Last summer I was sitting, sipping gin and tonics, with two of my close friends, who are also geography professors, and we discovered that we had all wanted to be landscape architects. So there you go, I'm secretly a frustrated landscape architect. 

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