|Students go green with choice of major|
|Written by Kasha Henricks, Daily Vidette Staff Writer|
|Monday, 17 October 2011 15:11|
“Green” majors, officially known at ISU as majors in environmental health or health sciences, are becoming increasingly popular choices among students.
George Byrns and Guang Jin, both health sciences professors, discussed the benefits teaching topics in environmental health can have for a university.
“In environmental health, there are three major career paths,” Byrns said. “When you talk about going green, usually people are thinking about environmental protection.”
The other two paths environmental health students can venture down are public health and occupational health.
“There are three different jobs all in this focus. So it’s enforcement, or working for the industry to keep you out of trouble with the enforcement agency, or working as a consultant, which is like working for the company, but they’re not big enough to hire their own,” Byrns explained.
Byrns has worked in each area of environmental health and explained how it can work on a local level. For example, McLean County has its own Health Department that offers various services to residents.
“I teach a gen ed class, Introduction to Environmental Health. I ask them, ‘How many here have ever been food poisoned?’ Cause I always raise my hand, I’ve probably had every food poisoning disease,” Byrns added.
While teaching the Introduction to Environmental Health course, Byrns teaches students what to do about health issues, like food poisoning.
“I ask the class, ‘well who’d you report [your food poisoning] to?’ Students respond with ‘my mom.’ I ask, ‘well anybody else?’ ‘Well I called the restaurant.’ I said ‘you need to contact the health department so they can go in and see what they’re doing wrong, so more people don’t get sick.’ And that’s a huge issue, most people in the general public don’t know who to call,” Byrns said.
Byrns had a few suggestions as to who to credit for the increase in awareness of environmental concerns and going green, including former Vice President Al Gore. Other environmental issues that have sparked the public attention include the BP oil spill.
“Our major count’s going up, we can still handle some more, don’t send them away. But we're seeing this big peak [of interest in] global warming,” Byrns said.
Jin has other ideas as to what is generating public attention.
“People still have this old mentality that reducing pollution costs money and [is] a big hurdle for economy and it’s a burden to the society. But we really have to think about it in a different way.”
“I mention a lot about pollution prevention; it’s a great way to actually help the economy,” Jin added. “When you reduce the waste, reduce the pollution, you’re improving the efficiency both in terms of material and in terms of energy. When you improve efficiency it’s got to help with the economy and save the cost. It’s really a benefit to the society as opposed to a burden to the society.”
Jin suggested there are other ways to think about going green, and it should be proactive, rather than reactive.
“I think the concept is not ‘let’s generate waste and then think about ways to get rid of it safely.’ We have to think about what we should do in the first place to not generate, or reduce the waste in the beginning. That’s where I think the difference will come about and that we can really benefit in thinking in that kind of direction,” he said.
With passionate professors like Byrns and Jin, it’s no wonder the major count has been going up at ISU. The publicity generated about global warming and the BP oil spill played a part in this as well, introducing students to a field that can also benefit the public and the world.