ENVS 220: Environmental Analysis 2017

ENVS 220 has been a scholarly evolution of integrative analysis. In this course, we work to compile an interdisciplinary toolkit including posts on a variety of skills ranging from concept mapping to statistics. Another central part of this course involves crafting a concentration or area of interest that shapes our paths forward as Environmental Studies students. My concentration examines waterfalls as geologic and cultural focal points.  It also grapples with questions regarding the effects of human visitation to waterfalls and how to best manage tourism in waterfall areas. The final portion of ENVS 220 is centered around a situated project in which we examine an issue that takes place in a country visited by a Lewis & Clark College study abroad program and examine that issue through skills learned via the interdisciplinary toolkit. My group focused on Japan’s tuna fisheries with regards to how cultural and physical landscapes shape each other.

In the onset of ENVS 220, we quickly began work on concentrations. The concentration process started with researching topics of interest. I investigated the topics of freshwater, geomorphology, and recreation to craft three topic summaries based off key questions derived from this research. Upon completing these summaries, I received faculty feedback on the topic of freshwater and proceeded to weave these topics together with faculty comments in mind. To weave, I created a concept map with inter sectional questions linking my topics and constructed my theme. Upon solidifying my theme, it came time to work on a draft proposal. The concentration proposal is a form that needs to be completed in order for one’s concentration to be approved by the environmental studies faculty as well as a select “steering committee” of professors from other disciplines. The format of this proposal is the same as the final with a title, summary, questions of all four types (descriptive, explanatory, evaluative, instrumental) and four “concentration courses” that pose possible answers to the questions asked in the proposal. I ended up examining waterfalls through the perspectives of geomorphology, religion, and tourism in a variety of situated contexts. Such contexts include places like Japan where waterfalls hold spiritual significance in Buddhist, Shinto and Shugendo traditions. I’m also considering the geologic and tourist aspects of waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge – Oregon’s premiere waterfall area. See my final (approved) proposal here.

Here are my concentration posts.

Lab work is another important component of ENVS 220 that helps to assemble an interdisciplinary toolkit. We began lab by creating our websites and making progress on admin level digital scholarship badges. The second lab focused on using Zotero and utilizing the zotpress plugin to conduct research for our topic summaries. I began researching ecotourism and its impacts on local communities. It was useful to learn about how to utilize Zotero and zotpress as these skills came in handy during my concentration research. The third lab focused on concept mapping by using cmap tools to illustrate how actors and networks connect with regards to an issue of interest. I chose the Osawa Failure Project, a series of dams and channels built below Mt. Fuji, Japan to prevent disastrous debris flows. I used cmap tools later to aid in weaving my concentration topics together and to craft a theme. For the fourth lab, focus was turned towards statistics as we learned the basics of collecting and analyzing survey data to illustrate trends in people’s beliefs. I compared people’s perspectives on individual vs institutional action through creating charts from class data on google sheets. The next lab involved descriptive statistics and international data drawn from Yale’s Environmental Performance Index. I compared water recourse and sanitation performance between Japan and Tanzania. It was fascinating to display the major differences between these two countries through charts and graphs. See the post here. Upon doing some descriptive statistics, we shifted focus towards inferential statistics. We did this by examining a study done by Stephen Kellert that compared attitudes towards animals between residents of Japan, the US and Germany.  With the framework of Kellert’s study in mind, we analysed module data collected on responses to the question of what the highest priority in one’s country should be then inferred what the results tell about the priorities of the country’s population. See the post here.

The following two labs involved mapping with Arc GIS software. The first of these two drew upon Yale’s EPI data for spatial analysis of a global issue regarding environmental health or vitality. I mapped water sanitation under the environmental health category and found clear variations in performance between different regions of the world. View my findings here. The next GIS lab involved mapping environmental justice issues in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. I mapped demographics and air pollution in the Portland area. The goal was to see if there is a correlation between poorer or non-white neighborhoods and higher levels of air pollution in those areas. There were connections between generally hispanic areas and increased air pollution from residential wood burning but this wasn’t always the case. The next “tool” added to the kit was qualitative analysis. This was done through discussing the several different meanings of sustainability shown on the critical sustainabilities website. It isn’t only about if an institution is sustainable but what kind of sustainable. We then read sustainability reports of three different colleges in Oregon and compared their themes by running them through voyant tool. We also chose indicator words for different forms of sustainability and looked for them in the voyant tool analysis. See the resulting post here. For our final lab, we had a choice of doing quantitative or qualitative analysis on people’s perspectives regarding climate change. My group chose qualitative and interviewed several Lewis & Clark students about their opinions on climate change and how they would communicate with others about the topic. We used voyant tool again to uncover overarching themes among the interviews. People were generally apocalyptic but some opinions varied. See here for the completed post.

Here is a collection of my lab posts.

Upon completing the interdisciplinary toolkit, we began work on a situated project that would prove central to the final portion of the course. This project focuses on a certain country that is visited by a Lewis & Clark College study abroad program and investigates a prominent issue there. Through investigating the issue, we came up with framing (broad) and focus (answerable) questions about the problem as well as completing the “hourglass” approach. This method involves starting broad (top), narrowing while performing analysis (middle), then casting the results in a broader context (bottom). My team’s project examined the relationship between social standards and physical landscapes with particular focus on tuna consumption in Japan. Such a relationship illustrates the notion of environmental determinism. Environmental determinism is the idea that the natural characteristics of a certain place predisposes societies and cultures towards particular forms of development. There are significant connections between a place’s natural environment and the set of cultural practices that stem from it. This is particularly evident in Japan. Culinary practices like the preparation and consumption of high quality seafood are has been valued in Japanese culture for thousands of years. Such culinary practices are facing a change as tuna populations are plummeting from over fishing, causing a severe decrease in oceanic biodiversity and forcing tuna prices to rise. We examined this issue through several methods of research including literary research, quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis and GIS mapping. View our findings in our project portfolio.

Here are my project posts.

Overall, ENVS 220 was a truly multifaceted course that I’ve learned a lot from. I intend to utilize skills learned via the interdisciplinary toolkit in future courses and in life. I am also passionate and excited about perusing my concentration. I wonder how it will evolve as I continue the environmental studies major and am looking forward to seeing it unfold.