Edited by: Aahana Banerjee
College in the first semester is hard, not because you start reading big, intense textbooks or are expected to develop original, intellectual thoughts that you seemed to lack in school, but because you start to realize that being the big girl that you always wanted to be is not all that dreamy.
I stepped into my first semester with my head in the clouds, eager to get a seat at the adult table. The only problem was that I did not want these adult table discussions to get too realistic either, because then I could pretend that there was nothing very wrong with the world around me and it was only waiting for me to fulfil my desires. However, thanks to my Environmental Studies (EVS) foundation course, my bubble burst quite quickly.
Every class of the semester was like being in a courtroom. It was as if the Zoom tiles were court stands, and a hundred students were being accused. However, I must tell you that the nature of these accusations was quite clever. We were not being blamed for our exploitative actions; that would imply that all of humankind is to blame which would lead to the diffusion of responsibility, leading to nobody taking accountability. So instead, we were being blamed for our collective ignorance, as students of liberal arts, towards the tragic state of the world we live in. What was worse was that the class was being taken in the middle of the first wave of the pandemic, and our blatant ignorance was quite shameful. As you might have guessed already, the feeling of being constantly attacked is not the greatest. Guilty or not was the question of the hour.
I was able to recognise the atrocities that I have committed towards the environment by being a wasteful consumer, my contribution to harmful dairy practices and to the increasing number of plastics. This was directly proportional to the increase in microplastics in the ocean which in turn harms marine life. The course material was so infuriatingly eye-opening that I began to see how it could be applied everywhere. Believe it or not, I have had strange dreams about attending the funeral of a whale where its family had plotted my murder.
This explosion of realizations generated one hell of a feeling of cognitive dissonance in me. In case you don’t know, cognitive dissonance is the discomfort that people experience when two of their beliefs or attitudes contradict one another. Simply put, when they behave in a manner opposed to the ways in which their belief system wants them to. To resolve this dissonance, one either has to change their beliefs, change their actions or introduce a new belief that somehow justifies their behaviour. Now you might think that the course with its whooping facts and the discomfort that it caused me would’ve led to a moral restructuring in myself. Sadly, it did not. You see, we belong to a very selfish generation with a very skewed moral compass.
I couldn’t really change my actions concerning the environment because, honestly speaking, there were simply too many actions that would need changing so I just didn’t bother. I changed my beliefs instead, and stopped caring about the environment. This doesn’t mean that I am voluntarily doing something to harm it, but I can’t realistically keep track of every minute action of mine that has the potential to do so. I know it makes me look like a bad person, and I am okay with that.
If you take EVS, you will either feel the same as I did by the end of the course or you will start caring about the environment way too much. In the case of the latter, it will be difficult for you to monitor your actions when you live in a society as fundamentally exploitative as ours.
So my dear first year, don’t take EVS because no matter your perspective, when your course ends, it will leave you hating yourself. Besides, don’t we do enough of that already?