Considering I grew up in a large urban city, my environmental education was a bit more extensive than one would expect. However, in retrospect, it was still not much. Throughout middle school, we were taught about the typical reduce, reuse, recycle, while also focussing a lot on pollution and the depletion of the ozone layer. I remember going on a field trip, where my class picked up trash around the area. Although I now realize this program was most likely set up for the purpose of reputation boosting, it was still significant to me. As Doug Larkin states in his article, “…teachers can develop student’s naturalist intelligence and critical consciousness by building on the ways they actually experience the world” (56). This experience helped me appreciate my neighborhood’s unique sense of nature and learn to care for it. Additionally, the reading “Exploring Our Urban Wilderness” by Mark Hansen made me realize that when I was younger, my view of the nature in my city was relatively negative and that it took a lot to alter that perspective. Overall, most of the things I learned in grades k-12 were just the surface level of environmental education. As discussed in chapter 1 of Bigelow and Swinehart’s book, everything is connected, yet many of my peers and I did not get a full education on the environment until we took a designated class for it.
One thing that stood out to me while reading the first chapters of the Bigalow & Swinehart book, as well as the Bilott novel was the notion of choice. One article in the textbook titled, “Plastics and Poverty” discloses how the plastic industry directly affects the lives of lower income homes. Depending where the actual production sites are located, most of the time, lower income families in the area cannot afford to move, thus them being exposed to toxins everyday. Additionally, these families do not have the choice of buying plastic products with less toxins, since they tend to be more expensive. We take the ability to make choices for granted, which is seen in our decision to build harmful factories, release toxins into the atmosphere, and utilize environmentally unfriendly items. The reading “Interconnectedness- the Food Web” summarizes this idea by using the “butterfly effect” metaphor. One small choice we make today can lead to an outcome we never intended to cause. The Bilott novel exhibits this to the worst extreme. Wilbur Tennant’s farm was never the same due to a company’s series of choices to establish a landfill near his home.