The Journey to Awareness
Brandon Gowdy didn’t always care about the natural world. Originally from Ellington, Conn., the Green Mountain College senior moved after high school with his family to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Both areas have rich ecosystems and dense natural diversity – places ripe for developing a love of the natural world - but Brandon had his eyes inward. “I was centered in myself,” he says. “I hadn’t learned to pay attention to the people and things around me.”
Then, while attending a community college, Brandon got involved at the Northwoods Stewarship Center near his home teaching children about the environment. This work piqued his interest – and he decided to focus his studies on environmental issues. When he came to GMC, he got a trial by fire in a semester long block course on ecosystems service evaluation. It was his turning point as a student. “It was a huge collaborative research effort,” he says. “I got comfortable working in groups and it got me engaged in what this school has to offer.”
A trip to Brazil over the summer opened Brandon’s eyes to the United States’ influence on other countries. He saw some of its gaudy, more ambiguous capitalist traits reflected back at him, and realized that the country has a long way to go when it comes to environmental sustainability.
Working closely with Professors Mark Dailey and Jim Graves has developed Brandon’s abilities as a student and mentor. He has pursued independent studies and presented a workshop on riverine ecosystem management to fall 2009 Images of Nature classes. In the future, Brandon hopes to attend graduate school with an eye on the policies that shape environmental decisions.
So what is sustainability? Brandon wonders that often. His work has been on the frontline of the conflict over what ‘sustainable’ means and how this meaning should be applied. One thing he does know is that the U.S. is not getting it right, saying, “Here we are parading around saying this is how it should be done, but we’re not really achieving the same objectives in our own country,” he says. “It’s the pot calling the kettle black.”
By Ryan Dixon '11