Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Letter to a potential environmental geography undergrad

One of my professors got an email inquiry from a potential undergrad interested in conservation and a geography degree. She was interested to know how conservation and geography degree could be related and the prof ask a few of us "environmentally inclined" geog students to email her. I thought I'll share my long enthusiastic email. It'll probably apply to any students who might be interested in doing geography in NUS and interested in the environment!
"Well personally I would say that Geography comes closest to environmental studies in Singapore without becoming an engineer or scientist. Geography covers topics of human-nature relationship and issue amongst other things :) If you are more inclined towards the sciences, we also have physical geography that covers many aspects from hydrology, coastal geomorphology to biogeography. Personally I'm doing more environmental geography. Right now I'm actually doing my Masters and I'm researching on ethical food production and Singapore's ecological footprint, farmers environmental behaviour, etc :) For my honors thesis, I looked into social capital and networks in nature conservation.

What more, in NUS, there is also lots of opportunities to go overseas for student exchange and field studies. I did both. For student exchange, I went to University of California, Santa Barbara where I did geography and environmental studies and got even more exposure to different topics like environmental planning, etc. For field studies, we spend 1.5 months in Thailand where we get to do research in the field! I did that in my first year and learnt a lot about sustainable resource management by the ethnic minorities in the northern thailand highlands :) This is actually a module where you earn 8MC (equivalent of 2 classes in NUS) by having fun overseas doing really cool gungho fieldwork research haha :) So all this I got to do thanks to geography at NUS. They really encourage students and give them lots of opportunities to try many many things.

But at the same time, in NUS, you also need to do other modules from other departments and faculty. So this is where you can learn more by taking modules in biology or any other departments that you might be interested in. I did a lot of modules from biology to supplement my own understanding.

NUS also offers joint programs with University of North Carolina and the Department of Biology also offers a minor with overseas university for all students in NUS so you can do geography and the minor and it'll be just as good as any environmental studies or management bachelor program in the world :) In fact, in many universities, the env studies program is an interdisciplinary program where many of the professors are actually from geography!"

Update @ 21 Nov 2008, 1:08AM
I realize that this has been advertised on WildSingapore so it's going to be read by more than I expected. That's quite worrying because I don't think that this "letter" is neither comprehensive nor representative about geography, conservation-studies nor environmental geography. It's just a little bit about my experiences and mostly because the person was interested in Geography at NUS so my sharing was very biased. Absolutely PR. Of course there is more that I have not written. I often personally attribute most of what I learn not from my geography classes but to all the other activities and opportunities that I got through my time in university and this is not limited to Geography. From being with toddycats to writing my thesis, joining beachfleas, NHC and now TLW, my journey is still going on. Of course I've also been limited by Geography but purely my own fault for not becoming a physical geographer. I should be measuring things out there right now but I never did very well at that. Drats! So I've actually discovered what I'm better at and focus on my own niche. The self-discovery is still continuing today! I definitely can't claim to know it all already. It's quite true what they say, "the more you know, the more you realize you know nothing".


Jeffrey said...

Ooo .. now I wanna be geography student too!! :P

Monkey said...

haha sure or not? so good ah? :P im just jealous i'm too late for the environmental bio minor :( how come during my time dun have such good deals?!

Joe Lai said...

Geography - a seamless physical reality onto which we map life intelligently in all its length and breath and height and depth that we can fathom but whose outer limits we have not even begin to find except what we can manage through philosophy where we enter into the other realm of metaphysics. : ) Geography is a great start for almost any disciplines!

Joe Lai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Lai said...

Oh my! You know what? Today happens to be World Philosophy Day! Hmm... so timely. Just when I was thinking about the neglect of philosophy as our young and bright take on the multiplicity of disciplines in their academic pursuits, and how I do sense acutely November's no-mention of philosophy in her account of geography studies that I thought I would do the honour highlighting it myself. Well...heehee... Happy World Philosophy Day, everyone!

Monkey said...

cannot mention philosophy lah lol had to write something that was approachable and mainstream? mmm although the student said that she was interested in wild animal husbandry and forestry as forms of "conservation"! Before I can talk about philosophy of geography and how geography covers everything limited only by our own imagination, i think we need to get the concept of conservation correctly to the masses out there. sigh. wild animal husbandry. darn zoo and captivity breeding programs. really need to break through the stereotypes of species conservation and all that crap.

Jeffrey said...

What is correct and what is not? While in science, we talk about "shifting baselines" the reality is that the "baseline" of human perceptions and norms shifts with each generation. One man's (or woman's) concept of conservation will change (for better or worse).

Philosophy is linked to another neglected discipline - history (and I mean this in the broadest sense, to include the study of past cultures and even "extinct" species). Man has never learnt from history, despite best efforts by the greatest thinkers of our time.

It would seem logical to see the trial of destruction left behind in the wake of "progress" for mankind to see that lessons from the past should guide us to a better future. Despite mankind's (or at least certain individuals within the horde) proclamation of our intellect and superiority, "mankind" as a whole is an instinctive creature, easily driven by its desires.

Technology, the cornerstone of mankind's "mastery" over the earth, both exacerbates and holds off the inevitable - the ultimate collapse and pass of mankind from this phase of earth's existance.


Monkey said...

after many exchanges of email, it's my fault for overreacting so i really feel bad for misrepresenting her, geography and many things. gah i really shouldn't blog. lol the license to write is just too scary. feeling kinda down about this whole email and blog exchange because i don't think i set up a good platform for exchange. i didnt blog everything that i talk to her about and i definitely wish there were others who could have given her ideas and comments because there are other opinions different from mine and mine is definitely not always right

Joe Lai said...

November, I like what you wrote. I had in mind just filling in a gap I thought I can contribute... well, at least to hint at a wider possibility and the confluence of disciplines with philosophy that in the way-past stood as equal foundation studies, besides Latin. You are so intelligent, girl! Write some more! I love reading always. So don't feel bad. Always... Uncle Joe. : )

Monkey said...

Thanks uncle joe :) sorry that was just my usual bout of insecurity and low self esteem talking :P