Mara McPartland ’12-Human Ecology

I have always been aware of the relationship between society and the natural environment.   I grew up in very rural places where the boundary between humans and nature is less apparent than in urban areas.  I found security surrounded by non-human things.   These experiences created a sense of responsibility to preserve those wild places that have not already been irrevocably changed by people, and a desire to stop the human actions that are bringing our world into a state of desolation.

This sense was what drove me towards the environmental studies when I first came to Bennington.  I formulated my academic plan in Cultural Ecology, the study of human societies, from the origin of humans and of human civilizations up to the modern day, and the relationships that we have with the natural world.  Questions regarding human nature human and culture and of how those influence our interactions with the environment form a central part of my academics at Bennington.

In pursuing my ideas I have taken classes in a variety of disciplines, but my studies have overall been rooted in empiricism.  I have taken many science courses at Bennington such as Forest EcologyEvolutionAgroecology and Environmental Geology, with the intent of studying human impact on and physical relationship to the environment. To address the human aspect of my questions I have taken classes in the social sciences such as Global Ethics, Global JusticePeople, Culture and Society and Environmental History of Food and Farming.  Finally, in order to study current issues in this arena I have also taken lots of classes that fall directly within the Environmental Studies program such as Energy and the Environment, Environment and Society, and Climate and Energy Solution Analysis.

Being at Bennington has been critical to my evolution as a thinker and as a person.  The immense opportunity to be able pursue my own ideas has allowed me a kind of sensitivity and insight into the workings of the world that I don’t know that I could have achieved anywhere else.  With the knowledge and inspiration that I have gained here I feel as though I can concisely and effectively work to create the kinds of changes that I wish to see in the ways that we currently use our natural environment.

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