AP Environmental Science confronts harsh truths

Brigid Murphy, co-features editor

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I never thought I’d take AP Environmental Science (APES) because sophomore year I found my calling: chemistry. No other subject had ever come so easily to me; my little sophomore self began to formulate big, women-in-STEM dreams of pursuing a college major in chemistry.

Sadly, this beautiful bubble of ambition popped at the end of my junior year, when my counselor delivered the news: AP Chemistry would not be an option for me. In a fit of panic, I chose APES instead, and here I am today  explaining why this curriculum has changed my life.

While APES is often pegged as the “AP Easy Science,” this nickname falls flat once knee-deep in the course. This class has not been easy; exposure to curriculum that forces you to confront your selfish, detrimental habits is not easy. I didn’t expect this class to be a groundbreaking odyssey of scientific and self discovery, but it has been.

This is the only class I’ve taken throughout high school that compels me to take a step back and analyze how the curriculum applies to my everyday life. This class has provided great insight into human practices, which produce waste and pollution, that I partake in on a daily basis. I’ve realized I can’t rely on others to change their ways: improvement comes from the individual.

APES provides an abundance of supplemental details to our textbook material, such as articles and documentaries, which often stir up my emotions. Earlier this year, watching a documentary about air pollution, tears were shed in reaction to the effects of Agent Orange in the atmosphere of present day Vietnam.

One documentary in particular, Food Inc., truly resonated with me. It forced me to take that serious step back and reevaluate one of my daily practices: meat consumption. From that moment, I was ready to make that dietary change (not just at an ethical level but at the environmental level as well).

While the idealist in me says, “Save the animals,” the realist in me says, “Save the earth.” Extensive amounts of trees must be chopped down for designated grazing land, which contributes to higher levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Further, cows release so much methane that meat production serves as a serious rival to fossil fuel emissions. 

Through taking this course, I am exponentially more knowledgeable about the realities of the world in which we live. Education is the key to change, and to be an active citizen of the world, one must know how humans are exploiting and affecting it.

It’s a shame this information is only available to South students at the AP level. To truly begin to understand our current detrimental environmental habits and start forming solutions, this curriculum needs to become more accessible to all students.

Further, this class should incorporate more hands-on experience dealing with human consequences of consumption. While we do partake in labs, exposure to our own shortcomings of environmentally friendly behaviors would inspire changes we can make in our daily lives. I suggest a voluntary period of vegetarianism complete with a reflection, or researching where and how much energy we use at home and how we can best reduce our usage. 

Civics, where students learn how to be active citizens of our democracy, is now a graduation requirement. Why are we not being taught how to be respectful citizens of the Earth? This information needs to be relayed to students, either roped into the Civics curriculum or even as its own stand-alone class.

Education is where hope for improvement begins. This course has opened my eyes and forced me to confront issues where I used to shut them tight. If people knew the true effects of their daily habits, they’d begin to change their ways.

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