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Why All High School Students Should Take Environmental Science

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During my junior year of high school, I joined my school's International Baccalaureate (IB) program. As my high school has only recently gotten the IB program, there is not the widest range of IB classes available. Because of the limited amount of available classes, I had to enroll in IB Environmental Systems and Societies in order to take enough classes to obtain an IB diploma. Initially, I was reluctant about my environmental systems and societies class. I wanted to take physics or chemistry instead, or as I said at the time, "a real science class". But, after nearly two years of taking IB environmental systems and societies, I now see it as a very real science class that more high school students should take.

Through environmental systems and societies, I have learned about a range of scientific issues that are relevant in our modern society. These topics vary from the decreasing amount of fresh water available to the pros and cons of certain waste management systems to the growing need to develop clean energy sources. However, the most important lesson that I have learned through my environmental science class is not simply about the current lack of resources or different types of waste disposal. Through environmental systems and societies, I have realized how applicable environmental science is today.

Environmentalism is becoming more and more relevant in today's world. In media and popular culture, there is a strong effort to promote eco-friendly lifestyles. Director David Guggenheim's An Inconvenient Truth, a 2006 documentary about Al Gore's campaign to increase awareness about global warming, helped to start the current push to go green. The Cove, a 2009 documentary about unsustainable fishing practices in Japan, won an Academy Award and brought attention to the cruel treatment of aquatic animals in the entertainment and food industries. In business and technology, we see many companies trying to be more environmentally safe with their products. Major corporations like Nike, Intel, and General Mills are adapting more sustainable business practices. And, in politics, there is also a push to go green. The Department of Energy continues to set goals that emphasize cleaner energy sources for the future, such as reducing the cost of solar energy systems. What this all comes down to is that environmentalism is clearly becoming more and more significant in our society.

Through taking an environmental science class, students are gaining knowledge that will not only help them get a science credit to graduate, but also understand what is happening in the world around them. Students will find that they make decisions every day that can help or hurt ecosystems, such as the choice to pick up litter, buy a notebook made of recycled paper, or simply turn off the lights when leaving a room. And, maybe, students will even be inspired by seeing how small changes in their routine can help the environment and how small groups, such as those in The Cove, are making big statements about environmental issues.

In spite of my initial lack of appreciation for IB environmental systems and societies, I can honestly say that is has become my favorite science class that I have taken in high school (and I strongly emphasize the word "science"). So, even though I did not an environmental science class out of my own freewill, I hope that other students will take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the current environmental conflicts in the world and what they can do to find a solution.