You just might learn something

Sunshine State of Mind

Stephanie Hempel, Columnist

Last semester while registering for classes, I was curled up on a hotel couch watching the head-lights of Greek cabs through a set of large windows in the lobby.

The eight-hour time difference of Greece was a privilege because it was the first class registration date when I did not have to roll over in bed at 7 am.

The mouse on my computer swept back and forth between options: Environmental Concerns, Meteorology, Physical Science. I waited until the last year of college to take science credits. My poetic brain couldn’t fathom why I was required to take such dreaded general education courses, but I chose Environmental Concerns because it was a once-a-week night class, and I am a tree-hugging human being (damn new age hippies).

I started out the semester and decided that I hated everything about this class. I was over every bit of science Wayne State was trying to spoon feed me.

I walked into the Registrar’s Office the hour before our midterm exam and asked what it would take to get me out of there. It turns out I was experiencing an error on my account and paid for one less credit than I thought I had.

There was no hope. I needed the science class to graduate with the signed and certified paper that notified the world that I am worthy of my English Writing degree. Does this thought make anyone else uncomfortable? Deconstructing anything can truly disturb a person.

After receiving the bold and unholy D+ on my midterm letter (which I owned up to earning), I decided I needed to change. Dr. Barbara Hayford made this transition easier on the night she asked us to go around the room and tell her how we as students were going to make a difference in the fight against climate change.

Each row released the same murmured response. They would walk. They would recycle. They will care. They promise.

I told her I already did these things but I would do more. I pledged on that day to contemplate before purchasing, to understand before throwing away, and to decide wholeheartedly how my actions were going to affect the world around me before I followed through with them. I became conscious. Environmental Concerns is now something I look forward to attending on Wednesday nights.

Last week we were able to watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary “Before the Flood,” an appallingly honest look at how the actions of human beings are impacting the climate patterns and may result in the Earth’s ultimate demise.

I left class numb and hanging onto the last few lines of Leonardo’s speech at the United Nation’s Signature Ceremony for the Paris Agreement.

“The world is now watching. You will either be lauded by future generations, or vilified by them…That is our charge now—you are the last best hope of Earth. We ask you to protect it. Or we—and all living things we cherish—are history.”

The word history unleashed a spiraling heat in my arms, forcing me to question their validity. How much damage have I caused? Can I replace what I’ve taken from a planet that’s done nothing but provide?

Silence fell upon us as Dr. Hayford asked the class again, “What are you as students going to do? What are you as human beings going to do? What are you as young entrepreneurs, business professionals, parents, friends going to do?”

I walked home in a daze, biting my tongue like a mad woman wanting to yell at cars, wanting to tear down the infrastructure of our society and rebuild, reuse and reduce.

I have to say, as angry as I was about taking this class, I can’t count how blessed I am for this eye-opening experience.

Life is full of lessons, and the lesson I learned is to not overlook your general education credits. Someday you just might learn something.