The value of a liberal arts education

Andrew Revkin’s Anthropocene

The value of a liberal arts education is unmatched. In my sixth grade homeroom, I was given a pink piece of paper. It had multiple questions on it, but the only one I remember is this: Are social studies, English, math and science related? I wrote down, “yes, but I’m not sure how.”

It took up until Muhlenberg for me to realize how all of these seemingly separate entities were truly one. It has always been difficult for me to see the need to learn chemistry and physics if I was not planning on using these skills in my future endeavors.

However, “The Good, the Bad and the Anthropocene” by Andrew Revkin, the Strategic Advisor for Environmental and Science Journalism at National Geographic, proved how the social and hard sciences are meticulously intertwined.

The rest time I perked up during the lecture was when he mentioned interviewing sociologists and psychologists for one of his articles. As a sociology minor, I found comfort in his words. Revkin explained that tribal a liations are more important than facts.

Revkin’s talk of science was bigger than climate change. He brought forward the idea of communication.

These a liations come from living and interacting within institutions. These beliefs highlight the deeper issues of who people truly are. How do people gain these insights? Sociology is a discipline that relies heavily on the idea that institutions are what influences people’s perspectives.

For example, W.E.B DuBois grew up in New England where racism was less prevalent than in the south. Based on his experiences in New England, his mentality in his early years was the idea of “picking oneself up by the bootstraps” and that all one had to do was work hard to make it in the United States.

It was not until he went to school at Fisk University in Tennessee, a historically black university, where his ideas drastically changed as he witnessed lynchings and blatant racism.

The same thing goes with climate change. Revkin showed a video of a group from Oklahoma who had very different ideas on climate change than many of us who come from liberal schools and communities. With so much research behind the truth of climate change, how could these people truly believe it isn’t a real problem?

The institutions in uencing their ideas included religious as well as industrial. Some of their answers included, “If there’s no oil field there’s no jobs,” “We tend to be very conservative” and “You might say the environment is perfect today because God totally controls the environment.”

They believed that God would fix things. That being said, these same people, approximately 65 percent, were also aware that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. They understand the need for solar power and how over-farming created the Dust Bowl.

They have conflicting ideas because of their community and religious institutions. However, they are smart people who grasp the environmental consequences. Without knowledge of the institutions which dictate many people’s ideas, conversation and understanding would not happen.

Revkin’s talk of science was bigger than climate change. He brought forward the idea of communication. He introduced the idea of interdisciplinary study. He stepped outside of the hard sciences and through this gained more knowledge on how to talk about climate change to a range of people. It is not always about convincing, but instead about listening and learning from others.

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