Sustainability Program At MSUM


As the nation’s representatives in Congress debate and introduce resolutions and bills to address the changing climate, a group of MSUM students are preparing for more sustainable solutions for our future.

With the spring thaw bringing unprecedented flooding to parts of the Midwest such as Nebraska and South Dakota, climate change is coming up more often in conversation on a national scale.

The topic of climate change is not a new one, as debate throughout recent years brought the validity of the global phenomenon into question. Scientists and climate change deniers debated the effect humans have had on the global climate patterns.

According to NASA’s website, more than 97 percent of climate scientists are in agreement that humans have greatly influenced the planet’s raising temperatures.

Alison Wallace, professor and advisor to the sustainability major at MSUM, shared aspects of the new degree and its importance in teaching students about how to incorporate sustainable practices into every aspect of life.

“Sustainability itself is interdisciplinary,” Wallace said.

The sustainability program is a revision of an existing major and has six areas for students to emphasize in. Students learn not only about environmental history and alternative energy sources, but also on how the changing ecosystems and climate will affect every aspect of life.

In regard to the connections between climate change and the major, Wallace confirms that much of the curriculum involves observing carbon emissions and how it affects sustainability.

“Everything we’re studying, we’ve involved aspects of carbon emission,” Wallace said. “And carbon emission equals climate change.”

An interactive map published by the Global Carbon Project along with data from The Statistics Portal lists China, the U.S, India, Russia, Japan, Germany and a few other nations as the top emitters of carbon in the world.

Nico Arias, 20, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and minoring in public health and sustainability. He discussed the importance of learning about sustainable practices to address climate change.

“It’s taking a look at impacts of environmental sustainability,” Arias said. “Like on the economy, how they relate, and what actions impact environmental sustainability and how environmental sustainability impacts our decisions.”

Wallace stressed the importance of emerging leaders taking the lead in sustainability practices in the future. Certain classes in the curriculum hold debates on different topics such as human population growth and changing environmental behaviors.

“(The major) gives a broad base of understanding of what’s going on on Earth,” Gavin Moeller, 20, from Phoenix, said. Moeller is a transfer student majoring in engineering and physics with a minor in sustainability.

As carbon emissions rise across the globe and temperatures increase, more glaciers are melting; oceans are expanding and absorbing heat. According to Wallace, the planet is already committed to changes that will be unrecognizable for many species, human and animal alike.

As people in the Midwest are experiencing major flooding, people across the world are experiencing fires, draughts and increasing frequencies of extreme weather disasters.

“There will be a lot of humans killed if we don’t do something to combat a warming climate,” Moeller said. “Climate change affects everything.”

The direction that the United States will take related to climate change is uncertain, but students at MSUM will continue to learn how to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of life.

The next debate is scheduled for April 4 at 3:00 p.m. at Langseth 102 to discuss the ethics of controlling human population growth.

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