by Nicole Guappone
Thank you, Tom Friedman
I never thought I would be able to say that I’ve been to Iceland. On the long list of countries that I long to visit one day, Iceland didn’t even make an appearance. But now, I can’t wait to go back. I find myself, every once in awhile, transported back to that magnificent adventure, be it by a certain smell that reminds me of the ocean air or a mist of water that takes me back to the falls.
It definitely was different kind of school trip. Long gone are the bus trips to Washington, D.C., or the closest national park. And to think, it is all thanks to the fact that Dr. Beverly Peterson—then-honors coordinator—decided to pick up the latest book by journalist Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—And How It Can Renew America. The class that resulted was STS 201H: Climate Change, Energy and Biodiversity.
An English professor, a scientist and a philosopher walk into a classroom…
Because this was a team-taught honors course, we had a different speaker nearly every week, from several different departments. One wouldn’t think that the English and the business departments would have much in common, but there is at least one similarity between them: they both had something to say about the environment. Dr. Evelyn Pluhar-Adams, professor of philosophy, spoke about the effect that factory farming is having on both the environment and us. Dr. Gib Prettyman, associate professor of English, lectured about deep ecology and how we are losing our connection to nature and the world around us. We also heard lectures on the financial side of the climate change debate, the language of climate change and the science of it.
It was a privilege to take this class, and I highly recommend any team-taught course in the future. One of the best opportunities we had because of it, though, is the trip we got to take to Iceland, thanks to Dr. Peterson, Dr. Osagie, and everyone else who had a part in making it happen. It was exactly one month ago, as I write this, that I had just returned home, and missed the late-night lobby chats we had each night. But it seems like a lifetime ago.
“Congratulations! You are all intrepid Icelandic travelers!”
Yes, it seems like a lifetime ago, I was sitting in the lobby of Hotel Bjork at 11:00 p.m., when it was still daylight outside, reflecting on the first day we spent in Reykjavik. That first day, we saw the breathtaking view from the harbor unobstructed by fog, we saw the National Museum, and ate what we refer to as magically delicious hummus. After that, it was a complete whirlwind of waterfalls, mountains, history, and landscape. And, of course, climate change.
I don’t think anyone on the trip will forget the disappearing glacier we visited. It was quiet. Black sand led the way to its shrinking edge. It seemed expansive, but it wasn’t. It was much smaller than it had been just a few decades ago, when Iceland didn’t have to worry about its own economic crisis.
Incidentally, one of Iceland’s largest exports is fish. We had crab soup, lobster soup, fish and chips, salmon, and pickled herring (well, some dared to try the pickled herring). A large part of the trip, for me, was trying the traditional cuisine, which included skyr, a yogurt dish. We truly ate our way through Reykjavik, tasting this, trying that, sharing new favorites. We also shared something much bigger: the experience of a lifetime.
I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go on this trip, because if I hadn’t, not only would I have missed out on visiting an amazing country, but I would have missed out on getting to know my friends. We learned more about the people we thought we already knew. We shared this experience, and in turn, shared so much more. I came back from Iceland with a few friends that I know I will have for a long time. Our adventure was over. We were through with being intrepid Icelandic travelers, as Dr. Peterson called us. And so I close that chapter with a phrase (courtesy of Douglas Adams): So Long and Thanks for All the Fish. And now the new page turns.