Reflections of an environmental science student at UC Berkeley – Daily Californian

Not every college student has the privilege of going to an academic university that champions environmentalism to the degree of UC Berkeley. Every day, I recognize the privilege that is to study environmental science at such an esteemed college that greatly prioritizes environmental issues. Many universities lack the resources, time or desire to include such a field of study among their educational curricula. When I realized that many colleges across the country fail to offer degrees specifically in environmental science, I was utterly dumbfounded.
For colleges I applied to that lacked my intended major, I chose the closest alternatives I could find —  atmospheric science, evolutionary biology and planetary science. Even so, I felt like these universities were lacking an extremely crucial field of study, one that is essential for the future of humanity. I simply could not grasp how in the 21st century we were still failing to educate the most important generations of our time on one of the most critical issues of the present. 
When such a major is not offered despite genuine student interest, students may also feel lost when applying — like I did. Some may reconsider why they initially wanted to dedicate their studies to such a field in the first place. If their program isn’t offered, it also may lead some to question how important their chosen field is. Luckily, I never had to enter the realm of reconsidering my passions in the academic sphere. I have immense gratitude toward my school for creating an environment that is extremely driven to approach these issues head-on. The mindset that we should address our changing climate, rather than back away, is pivotal. 
As a student at UC Berkeley, I recognize the privilege of going to university in an academic community eager to address the reality of our climate change. In a city nestled between the rolling hills of the East Bay and the blue waters of the San Francisco Bay, it is hard to turn a blind eye to the environmental issues of the present when living in an area surrounded by nature. 
The creeks of Strawberry Canyon interweave throughout campus, zig-zagging through hundred-year-old buildings, bridges and gates as the waters quickly deposit in the Berkeley Marina. At the top of campus, there is an unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge connecting the jetting city of San Francisco to the jagged edges of Marin County. At the bottom of campus is our renowned Eucalyptus Grove, which spans the Southeastern corner with its ever-encompassing branches and fresh smell after spring rain. 
As the cherry blossoms begin to bloom, the first sign of spring emerges. Cold fog from the Bay begins to subside and the sun starts to replace the heavy rains of the winter months. Students emerge from the safety of the indoors, taking to the grasses on campus to dethaw after endless weeks of gray, gloomy skies. I find this time on campus to be the most serene — an opportunity to re-find peace before the academic year comes to a close.
As a Northern California native, I have been blessed to grow up in natural environments my whole life. Whether exploring the regional parks of the greater Bay Area or traveling to the Sierras to fully immerse myself in the solitudes of the mountains, I feel extremely connected to the natural world. With this in mind, I, like my other friends in the environmental field, consider myself to be a steward of the natural world. 
As a student in the Rausser College of Natural Resources, the last three years of my university experience have been particularly geared toward addressing today’s environmental issues. The education I’ve received from renowned professors in the field has proven transformative to my intellectual experiences, empowering me to develop a lens of thought that goes beyond simple solutions. 
Studying environmental science is extremely interdisciplinary. Even within my major, every student has different interests in the broad field of environmentalism. Students may focus on environmental science through an angle of microbiology, climate policy, conservation science or environmental public health — just to name a few. The variety of potential approaches each student has on the application of environmental science is truly endless. 
This just goes to show that every problem of the modern world can be seen from an environmental lens. During my time at Cal, I have found this mindset to be quintessential. No matter the issue, there lies an environmental impact in some form. For those of us constantly immersed in conversations about environmental issues, it may be easy to spot where shortfalls exist. Recognizing that there is always room for improvement is quite easy for us environmentalists to see.
For those not studying the environmental issues of the present, it may be easy to overlook such necessary conversations. However, there are always discussions to be had. Whether it be reflecting on one’s personal experiences in relation to the environment or the sustainability practices of a business as a whole, it is best to have these discussions now in preparation for the future. 
Just as I begin to reflect with spring emerging, I urge you to do the same. Although you may not be surrounded by budding cherry blossoms like I am, engaging in environmental reflection can happen anywhere, regardless of the location. Whether it be self-reflecting or chatting with a friend, taking this first step to address how your own lifestyle affects the natural world is a great way to start a conversation about living sustainably.
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