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Waste Not, Want Not

last modified Aug 18, 2011 03:28 PM

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Earth Day 2010: Dr. Jim Feldman stands next to the pile of campus trash, which he and his students will sort to see what could have been recycled, composted or reused.

Talking Trash with
Dr. Jim Feldman

Dr. Jim Feldman is an assistant professor of Environmental Studies and History and the acting director of the Environmental Studies program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. In Spring 2010, Feldman taught a Special Topics: Campus Sustainability course in which his students conducted an audit of the  university's solid waste stream. In this Q & A with COLS Special  Reports Producer Grace Lim, Feldman shares what he and his students have learned from studying trash.

1. First of all, what attracted you to the field of  environmental studies? Were you the kid always going after people who litter?

Environmental Studies allowed me to combine two long-standing interests—nature and social action. I’ve always enjoyed being outside. When I was a child, I attended a summer camp in northern Wisconsin, and returned to that camp to lead wilderness canoeing and hiking trips for many years as a young adult. Those were some of the most formative experiences of my life, and I knew that I wanted a career that would let me continue to think about—and be in—nature. At the same time, I always knew that I wanted to try to make a difference in the world. I get to do that in two ways—by teaching about subjects that I care about, and also through my research on wilderness and national park service policy. 

2. The phrase "going green" is such a catch phase these days. How do you get people to even care anymore?
You get people to care by getting them to realize that this stuff affects them personally. The food that we eat, the air that we breathe, the trash that we throw away—all of these things affect us at a personal level. When people start to pay attention to things at a personal level—to realize their own connections to the world around them—then they start to care. And then they start to take action.

3. Also the word "sustainability" is thrown about. What exactly is sustainability?
Sustainability can mean a whole lot of things. For most people, it means “being green” or caring about nature. But I think it means a whole lot more than that. At a minimum, it means recognizing the interconnections between our environmental, social, and economic systems. And I think that for a university sustainability means something in particular. You don’t go to college to learn prescriptive behaviors like “you should recycle more” or “you should buy organic food.” Sustainability needs to mean something more than this. To be sustainable, we need to learn to act in ways that are not just environmentally responsible, but also in ways that make our communities socially just and economically secure. In a university context—in a classroom—sustainability is a framework for the analysis of the complicated social, economic, and environmental problems that we face. Sustainability can provide a way to understand these problems, and respond effectively to them.

WasteNotVideo.flv

In this audio podcast interview with COLS Special Reports producer Grace Lim, Dr. Jim Feldman talks trash and more trash and what the campus community can do to reduce waste.

This podcast is also available for download to your iPod through UW Oshkosh  iTunesU (requires iTunes).

 

 

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by Ledwell, Brian A last modified Aug 18, 2011 03:28 PM