Students Study the Environment in the Time of COVID-19

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2020 has proven to be a challenging and unforgettable year, in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Around the world, scientists and sustainability professionals have been considering the environmental impacts, both positive and negative, that have stemmed from the global pandemic. This fall, a brand new class, The Environment in the Time of COVID-19, an open enrollment course offered by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Initiative, examined the topic.

The course, motivated by topical, student-driven creative inquiry of the student’s personal relationship with the environment during these uncommon times, focused on COVID-19 and environmental health, COVID-19 lessons for the climate crisis, the environment and human migration, environmental justice, environmental economics, urban environments, attitudes towards the environment, sustainable development, and more. Over the course of the semester, thirteen faculty from Earth and Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, and other units across the university participated as mentors, content providers, and panelists for the class. 

“We know that Lehigh students are resilient and want to move their education forward despite COVID.  Over the summer several faculty discussed ways to allow students to transform the challenges of  learning in a COVID world instead into a learning opportunity.  The Environment in the Time of COVID emerged as an accessible vehicle for that learning and personal growth. Both students and faculty mentors should be proud of their efforts in this class.  It stands as an alternative model for how student-driven, non-major education can be effective and rewarding to students and faculty alike”, says Dr. Frank Pazzaglia.

The course resulted in twenty-three student projects and the topics varied from air pollution, mental health, zoonotic disease, and the politics of gender among others. 

“Environment in the Time of COVID has allowed me to reflect on the aspects of COVID that we don't see constantly plastered on the news. I focused my project on homelessness, and I was able to reflect on the issue as a whole rather than just in the time of COVID. COVID has put a lot of our lives on hold, but that doesn't mean that the issues all around the world also get put on hold, and this course allowed me to acknowledge that. I appreciate that it allowed me to take a step back from my life and take into perspective how others are dealing with the effects of COVID-19”, says Alexis Hampton '23.

As COVID-19 surges around us and sustainability issues continue to present as some of the world’s most pressing challenges, the course was a welcome exploration to timely issues that are impacting humankind. All projects will soon be made available to the general public and archived by LTS via the Collecting COVID-19 website.