Have you ever had to blog for your class? Students in the University of New Mexico’s “Sustainability 364: Local Food Systems Practicum” class prepare “ABQ Stew” every spring semester, a blog concerning environmental sustainability meant to benefit the community.
The class is taught by Jessica Rowland, a professor dedicated to leading students in recognizing the importance of environmental concerns.
In the blog, students explore topics that they have been studying in-depth throughout the semester, connecting with the community to share their work.
Rowland said the goal is to “really engage them deeply with their communities so they can recognize these sustainability challenges.”
“I would say by the end (of the semester) the majority of students have worked really hard to put together like a pithy, well-written engaging piece that they’re proud of and that I am more than happy to publish on the blog as a representation of work from UNM students,” Rowland said.
Jade McLellan took the class last semester and posted about historical Indigenous foods. She said the project took a lot of time and effort — but was worth it.
“Honestly, I think that it’s really nice to have something where students can research something and share their results and have it be something that’s shared with more than just the class,” McLellan said.
The study of sustainability has three pillars, according to Rowland: environmental health, social equity and economic vitality.
“I come at the conversation of sustainability more from the environmental angle, really focused on climate change and what we as humans can do right now to sort of slow that trajectory that we’re on,” Rowland said.
Rowland was a geoscientist before her time at UNM, working to remediate polluted spaces.
“That experience really gave me the firsthand understanding of our human impact on the environment and the desire to do more,” Rowland said.
Rowland said the blog often leads students to future opportunities, such as jobs or internships with farmers or markets.
“Often that assignment is an invitation and a springboard to really make direct connections with our community organization and experts,” Rowland said.
The blog is part of the class every year, and is mentioned in the course description.
“I really like that community aspect and the fact that it’s not just one class and one point in time,” McLellan said.
Another large part of the class is planning the annual Sustainability Expo that takes place at UNM. This was canceled last year for the first time in 12 years due to the coronavirus pandemic, and its future still hangs in the air this year.
“Our classes are meant to be hands-on and experiential, and that can be tough over the online space,” Rowland said.
Rowland and McLellan discussed global climate change during the pandemic, noting that less traveling has caused a drastic reduction in car and airplane emissions. Rowland said this change will most likely be temporary.
“It’s not necessarily something that will be sustained over the long term if and when we sort of go back to normal operating conditioning, so I think it’s been an interesting kind of experimental stage where we can see, ‘Oh wow, when we as humans change our behaviors, there is an immediate response in how we impact the environment,’” Rowland said.
Rowland and McLellan also mentioned the increase in single-use products, such as masks, gloves and more. McLellan said there has been a widespread “acceptance of waste.”
Rowland, however, noted that this was doing less damage than the positive impacts in the reduction of travel emissions.
“We can see the impacts of these behavior changes, but without some sort of huge policy shift to sustain that kind of work, there’s not going to be any kind of long-term change that’s measurable within the system, particularly when you’re talking about climate change,” Rowland said.
McLellan wants people to continue thinking about their local community, even beyond the pandemic.
“I would really like to be hopeful and think that out of all of this people are maybe reconsidering what’s important and why it’s important to them, and thinking on not necessarily a smaller scale but kind of more community oriented, more local scale,” McLellan said. “And I think that that does tie into a more sustainable future.”
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716