ENVS 220 Fall 2018
Environmental Studies 220 is a class designed to learn about environmental analysis. The goal of the course is to learn the skills to answer questions about the environment. These skills expand upon lessons learned in the previous course, ENVS 160. A major portion of this class is dedicated to labs which help us understand the discipline through research and analysis. Another part of this class is proposing our concentrations, which are personalized areas of interest we hope to pursue as we continue with this major.
In our first lab, we established a site in one of three general locations: the Lewis and Clark Campus, River View Natural Area, or the Collins View Neighborhood. My lab partner Steffen and I established our site in Collins View and then collected some microclimate data within the site.
The second week of lab focused on collecting data on the ground cover and canopy cover of the sites we established. Our site was in a developed area so we did not find much ground or canopy cover. This spoke to the intensification of land usage in urban areas that we are studying.
In the third week, we took time to represent our data visually using graphs and charts. We also compared our data with that of the other lab groups in ENVS 220. This helped us understand the distinctions in land use between the three general locations. We found that our area, like the rest of Collins View, lost much of its cover due to development by humans.
In our fourth lab we took a new approach to visually representing our data. This time we established maps in arcGIS that displayed our data geographically. By doing this, we situated the quantitative research we had done.
At the end of this unit, we made a story map to construct the narrative of the land cover change we have studied in the areas in and around the Lewis and Clark campus. The story map allowed us to combine text, images, and qualitative and quantitative data into one page that is easy to share with those that are curious about our research.
In week seven of our labs we shifted our focus to the capitalocene. In this new unit we began to examine if capitalism is shaping our relationship with the environment. To measure this we looked at data from Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI). We tried to establish trends in environmental health across income groups and regions. We did not find much evidence to support the theory of the capitalocene.
Week 8 used the sam data as week seven. This time we chose a couple new statistics from the World Bank and mapped our data using arcGis. I chose to compare value added from industry and percentage of energy from renewable sources with wealth. I did this to try and establish any relationships that may support or refute the capitalocene. The correlations I found were based more on region than on wealth, so once again I did not find much to support the capitalocene.
In week 9, Steffen and I chose three countries to compare as samples for three different income groups. The countries we chose were Germany, Morocco, and Haiti. We compared data from the World Values Survey to see if people’s value relating to the environment change with changes in wealth. Our sample was incredibly small which did not allow us to find any trends relating values and wealth.
Week 10 was our final lab analyzing the capitalocene. This time we situated our analysis in Portland. We also combined our investigation of the capitalocene with concepts of environmental Justice. We studied whether air toxics disproportionately affected areas in Portland depending on wealth. I did not find a strong correlation between the presence of certain air toxics and wealth. However, this does not mean that all people in Portland are experiencing impacts resulting from climate change in the same way.
After this unit of labs, I wrote my first reflection post about my thoughts on what I got out of these labs and what I would have improved. Overall, I enjoyed getting hands on experience with environmental analysis. Due to the limitations of the course, our data was a bit unreliable.
My second reflection post attempted to dive deeper into some of the environmental history of the Lewis and Clark campus that Denise King brought up in our panel discussion on October 1st. I looked in the library’s digital collections to find information about land use change over time on campus.
For my third reflection post, I related our study of the capitalocene with The Lost Wolves of Japan by Brett L. Walker, a book we read in Global Environmental History. During the Meiji period (late 19th century) in Japan, a new rush towards modernity placed capital above all else, including environmental health. This led to the extinction of wolves in Japan. The wolf was once a culturally valued species. The change in values due to new desire for industrialization and capital allowed for the systematic murder of a once worshipped animal.
My fourth reflection post drew a connection between my concentration on green architecture and the Portland Trail Blazers. I did research on the efforts that organization has taken to reduce their impacts on the environment. The Moda Center seems to be ahead of other arenas in terms of reducing its impacts. Overall, I was impressed by the measures they have taken.
As someone interested in the fashion industry, I chose to write my fifth reflection post on the environmental impacts of the textile industry and the retail of those textiles as clothing. These industries have a quite a bad effect on climate and the overall waste produced by humans. Luckily, there are some possible solutions to this problem.
My sixth reflection post connected our unit on environmental justice with a documentary called The Triple Divide, which we watched in Global Environmental History with Professor Andrew Bernstein. The documentary focuses on an investigation into water pollution related to hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania.
The concentration that I proposed also focuses somewhat on land use and development in the anthropocene. I am focusing on architecture and how it has evolved with the pressures of climate change. I want to get an understanding of the role architecture plays in adapting to changes in climate. A lot of my interest is in the history of modern architecture and who has influenced current people in the field. Part of my research will be understanding how the history of green architecture has shaped the architects active today.
After spending most of this course analyzing environmental theories about actors related to climate change (the anthropocene and capitalocene, we were tasked with creating our own -cene. We chose to study the effects of urbanization. Our proposed situated research project is a values survey related to green spaces in urban Japan. We spent the last few weeks of the course researching and assembling this project so that we could present it at the end of the semester. Our final proposal culminated in a portfolio and a poster.
In our week 11 lab, we started our research for our situated research project. Steffen and I decided to do research on urbanization in Japan. To start this we found a total of 20 sources: 10 on urbanization in general and 10 focusing on Japan. We complied these in a group zotero library and included brief annotations for each source.
In week 12 we did not meet in lab sine Thursday was Thanksgiving. In class on that Monday, Steffen and I made our preliminary concept map based on the research we had done so far. That concept map was very generally focused on urbanization in Japan and its effects.
By the end of week 13, we had almost completed our research proposal. In this lab meeting we refined our project to focus on researching values related to the creation of green spaces in urban environments. Our hope with this project is to ascertain the level of importance of environmental features in a post-modern landscape.
This semester we learned to analyze human relationships with the environment with our focus being on the causes and impacts of climate change. As an environmental studies student in 2018, it is impossible to ignore the immense relevance of climate change. Most of our labs, readings, and my reflection posts featured analysis of contributions to or changes as a result of climate change. Human impacts on the environment are a topic that requires analysis like that we have studied in this course. Both my situated research proposal and concentration relate to forms of urban planning (architecture and green spaces) used to ameliorate the impacts of climate change.