Taking a stand: Students’ Perspectives on Environmental Issue.
What matters to us? What kind of future do we want? How can we get there as a society? These questions formed the foundation of a writing assignment in the bachelor level course “Environment and Society” . Their thought-provoking texts are now presented in Taking a Stand: Students’ Perspectives on Environmental Issues (PDF)
The purpose of the assignment was not only to make the students reflect on their own values and discourses, but to practice formulating and expressing their standpoints in a way that reached beyond the university borders and into the public sphere. Students were asked to write an opinion piece and were encouraged to get it published in a local or national newspaper or magazine. As bachelor students who are already well-versed in academic thinking and writing, this proved to be a challenging assignment on several accounts.
One such challenge was in relation to what an academic assignment is and in essence what research is. Questions of values do not usually find their way into academic assignments, largely because they clash with the idea of the researcher as an objective observer. However, by paying attention to environmental discourses, the students became aware of the many ways that values penetrate discussions of environmental issues.
Secondly, a good opinion piece is one that speaks both to your logic and your heart, that convinces you of a particular argument while giving necessary credit to other standpoints. Finding this balance while writing in a plain and including language is a challenge that all researchers face.
Last, and most importantly, this assignment aimed at making the students aware that their voice and their opinions matter and that contributing to debates and decision making is not limited to a select few but can – and should – be the obligation of all.
The opinion pieces selected for this short publication represent some examples from students who managed to tackle these challenges and write about topics that are not only relevant in the context of the course, but have broad relevance and importance. We therefore wished to share these thought-provoking texts with a broader audience. We hope that reading these will inspire you to let your own voice be heard and to actively contribute to the world you want to live in.