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Courses That Change Your Life: International Development and Env. Sustainability (Biol/Geog 304)

Posted by Paul Wiemerslage | Jan 12, 2015

Many of Au Sable’s offerings provide opportunity for more focused and specialized study of particular aspects of biology and conservation science. But sometimes there’s a need for a course that can provide a truly “big picture” of the issues, forces and people shaping the environmental landscape worldwide, and not only in science, but in politics, sociology and economics. International Development and Environmental Sustainability is that big picture course. Taught at the Pacific Rim Institute’s campus near Seattle, one of the USA’s major gateways to international exchange of ideas, goods and people, International Development and Environmental Sustainability provides an introduction to the critical issues and agents associated with global environmental degradation, poverty, international debt, appropriate technology, Christian missions and the environment, and the biblical basis of environmental care and its implications in global development.

With ideas this big, it’s not enough to read about them, see examples of them or listen to them explained in a lecture. Concepts like these need time for personal reflection and processing.  International Development and Environmental Sustainability offers students a chance to learn primarily through discussion format from a Christian scholar who has worked in many of these areas, Dr. Michael Ferber, Director of Development at The King’s University College (Edmonton, Alberta), Co-Director of Environmental Studies and Associate Professor of Geography. Michael’s educational background includes degrees in geography, education and theology. No one is better suited to the challenge of the big ideas inherent in this course than Michael. In this kind of educational experience, the primary value of a course like International Development and Environmental Sustainability, says Michael, is “gaining first-hand knowledge and experience regarding the causes of global inequality and environmental degradation and exploring Biblical solutions to some of the greatest challenges of our time.”  

Students attest that this approach works. Kelsey Rodin of Azusa Pacific University, said of her 2013 experience in International Development, “This course changed my life. Ferber was so amazing at showing and teaching us about the issues in the world and about the things that we can do to help. We never sat in a classroom, except when we took a test. We saw orcas, met with people at world vision, had ice cream together, explored deep poverty in Canada, and went to the most amazing food bank that I have ever seen. Ferb went to no end to make sure that we understood the issues with international development and the good and bad ways to approach it… He took us to World Vision where we sat in on meetings and learned all about the way in which they work, we went to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and saw the many ways that [their] people are working in the world, we went to A Rocha Canada and learned about sustainable living, …we went to urban development sites and learned about helping the poor, and we went to Good Cheer Food Bank where we learned about community and the importance of promoting fresh food and simple living… This class taught me what a heart for people looks like and showed me that changing the world is possible and absolutely necessary.”