I love the environment. I love our mountains, the ocean, my room, the desert, big cities, swamps, rock concerts, islands, movie theaters, the air and, yes, I even love school. These are all unique environments. I am fascinated by them as well as the harmonies and intricacies of the nature in and around all of us. This is why I am an environmental studies major. This does not imply that I hug trees, eat granola, don’t shower, go to Grateful Dead shows, smoke pot or behave antisocially.

In fact, most ES majors are not hippies. The only similarity between ES majors and hippies is a respect for nature and a desire to live with it. If people prone to judgment and stereotyping think that makes me a hippie, then fuck it – I am.

Chase Whalen, one of our very own seniors, is one of those jackasses. I make this statement based upon his column (“Environmental Studies Needs Some Cleaning Up,” Daily Nexus, May 24, 2002) bashing UCSB’s Environmental Studies Dept. He criticizes the department for having poor teachers, a weak curriculum and pot-smoking hippie students. This attack is uncalled for, undeserved and grounded in ignorance and arrogance.

The ES Dept. arguably contains some of the most approachable, sincere, open-minded, informed and active individuals on campus. As a whole, the department represents an eclectic mix of perspectives and opinions. If one tends towards the hard sciences, the ES and the hydrologic sciences degrees are two of the strongest in the system. ES has a lot to offer its students if those students are up to the challenge of actively pursuing their education.

Whalen’s problem with our department centers on its focus on theory and ideology, and the constant bashing of Los Angeles/Orange County by pot-smoking hippies. Nothing will change unless we actively introduce new theories and ideologies to replace the old dogmas that got us into this mess in the first place. That is why environmentalists in general focus on ideologies. They are fundamental to the discipline and the solutions.

I also dispute his claim that there is a lack of emphasis on practical problem-solving approaches. I have been in the major for more than three years and have never had a class that under-emphasized environmental problem solving.

Whalen’s criticism also finds fault with the disproportionate emphasis on Santa Barbara. I guess we should just forget about the abundance of case studies on local environmental issues sitting right in our own backyard and turn our academic eyes somewhere less accessible, less tangible and more difficult to research from the UCSB campus.

I do, however, apologize for ES courses finding time to move away from SB to “bash” the Los Angeles/Orange County area. I mean urban sprawl, freeways, smog, stealing water from Northern California – we should just lay off those guys.

The education you receive at UCSB is what you make of it. College is not a bound package that you pay thousands of dollars to have mechanically shoved down your throat, nor is it supposed to provide you with all the answers. College is a journey, a lesson and an experience. The truth is out there; all you have to do is get off your suburban, white-bread, shit-talking ass, get some balls and go for it.

Zach Baker is a senior environmental studies major.