Five Key Lessons from ESPM C10

In his class Environmental Issues, Ron Amundson, chair of the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, examines the major environmental challenges of the next 50 years: food, energy/climate, and consumption/resource extraction. Breakthroughs asked Amundson to share five key lessons from ESPM c10, but he responded that five key questions would be more appropriate to the subject.

“The way society contends with these issues is anything but certain,” he said, “and thus these challenges invite far more questions than answers.”

  1. What is important to you? The “environment” isn’t an abstract concept; it begins with your home, community, and family. These are all at the mercy of the larger global forces at work. If we make the connection between local vs. global, the importance of what is at stake emerges.
  2. What will the world look like when you are 60? Our environmental future will be a world of 9 billion people, with drastically different energy and climate conditions. To change the future, we must first envision it.
  3. What would Bono do? There is a gulf between what we know and gaining public and political acceptance. Bono, U2 lead vocalist and humanitarian activist, has an intuitive grasp of effective discussion: make your point, confirm the values of those with whom you speak, and allow participants from different value systems to engage with you.
  4. What did the person who cut down the last tree on Easter Island think? Supposedly, Easter Islanders’ rapid deforestation deprived residents of even the ability to build canoes and exploit their fisheries. From our vantage point it’s easy to say, “What were they thinking?” In the future, someone may ask that about oil. As Jesus reportedly said, “I speak to them in parables, for they seeing see not.”
  5. Do we have anywhere else to go? Pausing to consider the iconic images of Earth from space, I play the audio of Apollo 8 astronauts as they first caught sight of “Earthrise” over the moon in 1968. It is a powerful event. Possibly the greatest contribution of our space program was entirely unintentional: revealing our isolation in a universe that offers us nothing as beautiful as the home we already have.