December 2, 2008
It Really Does Take A Village…
In the multi-authored packet of information on interdisciplinarity, there are several points that explain not only what interdisciplinary studies means, but also the several ways by which to obtain the goals and why they are hard to do. Klein and Newell see the goal as being “a more comprehensive perspective”; i.e., a larger more holistic understanding of the question, problem, or issue at hand.” Today the world has many problems that can only be solved by pulling resources from many areas to achieve the most complete answer. It is true that within a given situation, one must pull from sources that do make some sense in their relations to one another. Fuller discussed the concept of “interpenetration” which is described as a “process that transforms the disciplines in ways that help them to see each other as engaged in a common enterprise. Not every discipline interacts with each other well, but finding the ones that do correlate and using them to achieve one greater good is vital.
In my concentration, environmental stewardship is a means by which certain social problems can be solved. This will require several steps. First a specific problem must be defined as having the ability to somehow be answered. Within the range of environmental concerns as well as socioeconomic ones, there is an ocean of possibility. One simply cannot justify that their knowledge of the breeding habits of whales will bring world peace. More plausible connections can however be made that can help both the environment and the quality of life for today’s children and families.
The question of helping to better the lives of children through addressing the problems of the environment concurrently is still a difficult one, which does require knowledge of several fields. One must understand from geological and environmental standpoints, what is going on with the Earth itself. Also in examining environmental links to social problems, there must be an understanding of social problems themselves. The most difficult aspect of determining an interdisciplinary course on a seemingly broad topic is that the interdisciplinary approach needs to be able to create the solution or it is not useful. Sometimes it takes a lot of simultaneous instruction or field study to see the connections that can make this happen. As the author Bal has found, there are links to sources and text from several different areas of study than can provide that more technical proof of the necessity of integration to solve an issue.
In working with children in their early years on a microscale, I got a personal view of what is needed for a child to properly grow and be well integrated into society. Strangely at first, I noticed connections between their personal environments and their personal growth. Several children had chronic asthma and could not play outdoors in temperatures that were too high because the chemical content in the air was bad for them. The ozone depletion has affected their ability to go out into the sunlight as children should. Sunlight helps the absorption of vitamin D that helps them grow strong. Children with weaker bone structure and general health in infant or toddler stages could potentially have long term problems with bone growth.. As well, their teeth may be more prone to cavities and diseases of the mouth that could later in life actually affect the heart, if badly enough infected. Also, pesticides and additives in foods and toys children put in their mouths have been linked to mental impairments and conditions from ADD to autism. One last point on this, is that the sun is vital for mental health as well, so not being able to go outside because air quality is so bad is a pretty sad thing. On the other side of the chemical coin, not using pesticides in playgrounds are leading to higher rates of tick and other insect related diseases. Parents react to these problems by trying to keep everything sanitized so much so that children as a whole are less immune to certain communicable diseases because they do not have enough healthy bacteria in their bodies, which can lead to overuse of antibiotics and steroids to combat the illnesses.
These personal issues have become wide scale because of the lack of concern for what is put into foods, toys, textiles, and building materials. Add that to the depletion of resources and the problems will only get bigger. Special needs classes are becoming more of a norm than they ever should be. Many parents who have to constantly deal with expensive treatments and schooling issues have to work longer hours to physically take care of their children especially in this economy, that families have much less time and energy for simply having fun.
The reason I chose this specific issue to describe is to illustrate how closely related we are to our habitats. Everyday lives have become very complicated, and that is before the factors of war, direct dire poverty, and natural disasters that humans are escalating with our consumption patterns; buy now, pay later. Unfortunately, people are having to pay much sooner than expected for what they do right now. This issue has to be dealt within a multidiscipline because the chain reaction it long. My personal experiences with sustainability, sociology, child care, and technology and design shape the way I will approach this issue. Changing home environments and small communities to support healthier lifestyles of the American family is a reasonable mission, but as of now, few companies and builders are as concerned as they need to be because they have not studied long term effects of fast and cheap. Being involved in community planning and home environmental counseling for families of infants is one way that can begin to reverse the downward turn. The ideas really are more like a fruit basket than a puzzle because there is no one right answer for every situation. However, noticing patterns ahead of time and trying to keep children healthy as opposed to expensively treating their illnesses, can save families money and time but more importantly, children’s present well being and future on this planet.