BY ELIZABETH JUST
Last fall, 10 other people and I paddled more than 2,000 miles in canoes. Our trip was called Paddle Forward
, and we were on a mission to paddle the length of the Mississippi River. I've been paddling for years but mostly in wilderness areas such as the Boundary Waters. While I love these places and enjoy the quiet time alone in nature, recreating on local waterways brings a new appreciation to the place you live.
I spent the majority of college learning about environmental issues surrounding climate change, such as energy usage, water depletion, resource extraction and decreases in biodiversity. Alone, secluded in serene wilderness, you are less likely to think about difficult climate issues. However, while paddling a river that more than 50 cities depend on for daily water supply, you can't escape noticing the effects humans have on the fourth largest watershed in the world.
I became interested in sustainability issues after I took an off-campus course from HECUA
that opened my eyes to the many environmental challenges we face today. After completing the HECUA course, I immediately signed up for the sustainability studies minor
, housed at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, to dive even deeper into the complexity of these issues. The minor furthered my knowledge on sustainability topics and provided the necessary tools to think critically about complex environmental systems. I also thrived in the experiential learning environment provided by the minor. I graduated in 2012 from the College of Food Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences with a B.S. in environmental science and policy management.