Over a year of work involved in the 115 pages, 31 684 words, and 190 126 characters.
I can’t believe today is my last day of classes here at The University of Melbourne. Three years have slipped by, countless words written, and a lot of knowledge gained. My Masters of Environmental Science is almost complete. It was a sad moment exiting the campus as a student for the last time, I walked around, looked at the buildings, trying to see something that I may have overlooked. It was raining, quite hard, and I found myself in front of my favourite building, and the faculty of Botany which I have spent most of my time in. Three years had come full circle. It was time to leave.
We have been given our dorm rooms for the week up here at Dookie. I have settled in with my books and laptop and got powerpoint up and running for my presentation tonight. The rooms are pretty sparse with a small bed, cupboard, desk and shelf. I found out the hard way (by placing bare feet on it) that the footrest is infact the heater with boiling water running through it. The rooms certainly date back a long time, with the honour roll of the cupboard door starting in the early sixties.
We headed out to our control monitoring site in the afternoon to run through our sediment tests. To my amazement, the sedimentation percentage and size tests ran remarkedly well. I thought the sieving would have ended up with the smaller sizes getting all clogged up, but they didnt at all. They just trapped their correct sizes and passed through those which were smaller. The control site had a really good sediment distribution which was quite amazing given that it looked consistantly bare from the riverbank. Tomorrow we get to try out the impact site!
And so it begins. First day of lectures. This semester I only have one subject to stare down: Sustainability, Governance and Leadership (SGL). It is a subject that explores the meaning of Sustainability and the human constructs that go along with it. It extends many of the themes I learnt whilst undertaking my Graduate Certificate In Sustainability. So I’m not too concerned of my brain exploding on the first day.
SGL is taught in an intensive mode over 6 Fridays with four hours of lectures and two hours of tutorials per day. To begin, we are introduced to one of the OEP co-ordinators and a brief summation of SGL. I was surprised to hear that in our class of around 100, there are 28 different nationalities represented! This certainly makes for diverse opinions and a real range of critical thoughts. Our first lecture continues and introduces us to the concepts of sustainability, governance, and leadership.
We subsequenlty have three guest speakers who give lectures on readings that we have previously studied. (Yes – I had to study around 100 pages of papers before the first day even began!). The topics the guest speakers covered were really interesting, and given in such a way as to not exactly “teach” you something, but to give you enough information so that you can start to critically analyze a concept, then go away and do some investigation and come to your own conclusions. I heard numerous times throughout the day “You guys are Masters level now, and we expect greater degree of critical analysis and original ideas than you have probably previously provided.” Hmmm. What have I got myself into?
We were then broken into groups of about 15 for tutorials where we could disseminate what we had read during the week, and heard in the lectures. These tutorials were nuts. We (tried) to cover about 10 different concepts in about 50 minutes, analyzing the concept and giving our opinion. It almost fried my brain. Our group is really diverse which makes for interesting discussions. We have students from Australia, Ecuador (2), Chile, China, Indonesia, France and Cyprus. Everyone had something valuble to contribute. It also gave us the chance to meet some of the people in our course for the first real time.
So what did I learn? I came away from each lecture with a few points which resoated and I could follow up on, such as:
Contemporary Ecological Challenges
– Habitat change is the greatest threat to endangered species (not say, climate change), with 80% of endangered species threatened by habitat change.
– In Australia, invasive species is one of our biggest problems, especially foxes and feral cats.
– The amount of research of flora is actually very small (we know very little about trees and plants). There is a big knowledge gap here.
Forms of, and Challenges of, Environmental Governance
– We are governing the environment with frameworks that are not fit for purpose.
– Therefore, what is the right mix of governance rules, regulations and markets for the best outcomes for the environment?
– Examples of simplistic solutions are all around us, but how do we over-arch them under one umbrella framework?
The Precautionary Principle in Environmental decision making
– Do we need the precautionary principle if the markets are running correctly? Are they broken? What are the values of the market?
– The PP is very normalative and doesn’t deal with complex systems. (Note the difference between the meaning of complex and complicated).
– In practice the PP can be an absolute mess, and serves no purpose for us. Essentially we are trying to to impose order on a non linear, chaotic situation.
Tired by the end of the day. But I better start reading next weeks papers. I have an assignment due in 2.5 weeks.
This will be my home away from home at The University of Melbourne for the next couple of years. I suppose today I’m officially a student again, having enrolled in my subjects for first semester. My second semester subjects however are far from settled. I met with my course supervisor who suggested to think a little out of the box, and even think about specialising in Governance, Policy and Communication. Other subjects to consider – such as Conservation and Cultural Environments and Indigenous Land Management (which complement each other) should also be on my radar instead of a heavily ladden engineering and scientific course. I have a few appointmnents to make and speak to heads of various faculties for their opinion on the best subjects to take to get to where I want to be. But I have time to consider all these options, as second semester workload doesn’t have to finalised until June. Until then, I can enjoy being a student again!
Today we had a group informaton session for all those begining with the Office of Environmental (OEP) programs in 2014. There are around 5 of these sessions, so I was expecting about 10 people to turn up. I was surpried when I found the room, with about 30 new hopefuls chattering inside. Apparently there are around 130 new Masters candidates, and around 400 students in all enrolled with the OEP. What strikes you most of the students is the diversity encountered. Ages from 25 to 55 with backgrounds from all around the world, and work experience from all sectors of the community. Even everyones goals from the program were so diverse, it must make for interesting teaching! I think it will be a most fascinting year.
Today I was offered a placement at The University of Melbourne in the Master of Environment course.
It’s the begining of a new phase in my career, a new direction, sustainable energy engineering with an environmental focus.
I’m super excited to accepted into The University of Melbourne – it’s one of the great universities of the world.
Not only will I learn great things – but I will meet and work with great peope. It’s going to be a very interesting 2014.