As you look over GreenLink, this new website with a unique mix of offerings, you may wonder why we have built a site with a major section that focuses on study abroad programs related to the environment. Why study the environment abroad? It’s a good question.
Most students who study abroad find that it enriches their young lives. It introduces them to new sights, sounds, tastes, smells and ideas, which give rise to new interests and ambitions. It teaches them about the diversity of the world, makes them more comfortable around people unlike themselves and gives them a new perspective on their own society. It literally makes the world a bigger place for the student and makes humanity a vast, multifarious community.
For an environmentalist, studying abroad has this impact, but with the added benefit of a more complete sense of environmentalism itself.
Supporting the environment on an international, global scale is completely different from joining the environmental movement in the United States. Here it’s too easy for environmentalism to become centered around symbolic goals like protecting trees and polar bears or fighting big oil or around simple changes like using a Nalgene or switching to fluorescent light bulbs. In contrast, around the world, especially in developing countries, the motives beneath the movement are very different, and they are more urgent. In many places, people feel the effects of their environmental challenges on a daily basis in an unavoidable way. In these localities it’s about health and basic standard of living. On a global scale, it’s about fighting corruption in government, it’s about cooperative resource management, it’s about survival and adaptation and it’s about ethics and social justice.
As international negotiations over climate change – like the COP17 conference beginning in South Africa today – continue to flounder, it becomes increasingly clear that the international initiatives required to protect our shared future cannot succeed without the US adopting domestic policies that will better support efforts at the UN. For the US to pass the legislation that would protect its own population and its neighbors around the globe, it needs citizen demand, and before that political will can be mustered, Americans must better understand their country’s place in the world.
By studying abroad, you become a globally-minded citizen, and you enable yourself to teach those around you how they can contribute to the global environmental movement.
Check back often to the World section of Rising Green and read more stories from students who have studied the environment abroad. If you have learned about the environment while traveling abroad and would like to share your story with us, please submit an article under 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Study Abroad → Serve the Planet
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