Geography MAP(S) for ENVS Students

Like most people, as a kid I was not too fond of rules and routines. I enjoyed figuring problems out my own way and believed that creativity could solve any problem. While I have obviously grown up since then and come to respect rules and routines, I still enjoy tackling problems creatively.

Personally, one of my favorite parts about being an Environmental Studies major is the many different ways you can look at environmental problems. There is not just one answer, or even a few answers, that will solve the environmental problems facing our world today. Many different people have examined these problems and have found new and creative ways to deal with it. Some people believe legislation will save the day, while others believe economic incentives are the way to go. Some people choose to view the current environmental issues from a health perspective, and others from a social justice point of view.

Throughout my time here at CU Boulder, I have done my best to take many different classes within my environmental studies major, to gain as many perspectives as possible. I have taken classes such as environmental economics, that view our current environmental problem as a market failure (or a failure to have a market as my professor liked to say) and environmental justice, in which we examined problems of environmental racism. One of the most interesting classes I have taken in regards to solving environmental issues is Environment and Society Geography, or GEOG 1972. This class examined interactions between humans and the environment from a geographic perspective, which I found to be an interesting way to analyze our current environmental problem.

The class focused on how humans and climate change have had different effects on the earth in different geographic areas. We learned how environmental degradation shifts across space and time, moving from one geographic location to a next. While everyone will feel the effect of climate change, the French Alps will see a very different effect then the coast of Florida. Although most environmentalists wish to solve climate change related issues for the entire planet, each individual can only work in one place at a time, and it is important to understand the unique environmental issues of different areas.

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One image that stuck with me from this class was this image of the beginning of a protected forest area in Canada. On the left hand side of the photograph is a barren wasteland and on the right is a lush coniferous forest. A logger has cut down every single tree up until the border of the protected forest, and so there was a horrifyingly stark contrast between the area that humans had touched and what they had not, a hauntingly accurate metaphor for human effect on the environment in general.

To be honest, I originally only took this class because it fulfilled my geography MAPS requirement, and had the word “environment” in the title. As my fellow out-of-staters will know, most high schools outside of Colorado do not have geography courses that meet this requirement. Prior to this class, I thought geography was just labeling places on a map, but I could not have been more wrong. I was pleasantly surprised with the class, and intrigued by the new perspective I had gained in regards to environmental issues. Taking this class was yet another reminder of the importance of trying new things, being creative and examining problems from many different perspectives.

-Will