The First Word
Sean Patrick Terry, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Geography, Environmental Studies and Global Studies
Can you recall the first time you were introduced to environmental problems? I remember the first college class that introduced me to water quality testing, and immediately I was hooked.
The results were always exciting. If the water was clean, there was good news to report. If the water was polluted, then there was an investigation to find out where the pollution was coming from and how to stop it.
By the time I had completed a master's on the water quality of the Ozarks, it became clear to me that most water quality problems were the result of unsustainable land use practices. I followed this with a dissertation exploring the impacts of oil development on the landscape and found out that some environmental problems were global in scale. I felt sadness at a lack of education on sustainability and anger at the lack of cooperation to protect our environment.
I am pleased that we celebrate sustainability in this issue. The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and E. coli in the Lake of the Ozarks remind us that big environmental challenges still lie ahead. Can Drury rise to help meet these challenges? I think the answer is yes. Sustainability has seen tremendous growth on our campus in the last decade. During that time, we have seen the adoption of green design in architecture, environmental economics in business, stand-alone environmental majors and the creation of a campus sustainability director position.
Now that Drury has developed programs in sustainability, what should we do?
Our faculty are conducting research to show environmental problems to our students and performing service to make our world a more sustainable place. Here is one example. I led a field studies class to Hawaii this January. During the trip, we assisted in removing non-native species and then helped to plant native trees. Our Hawaiian guide explained to us that previous unsustainable practices in agriculture led to local water pollution problems.
As we listened to the native prayer given to bless the new plants, we were connected to our environment and to each other and reminded that we face the same water quality issues in the Ozarks. In both places we have the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and help solve the problem. The Hawaiian prayer was followed by a song, during which it began to rain.
This time, I felt pure joy.