Why are we IGERT fellows?

By Miranda Chase’15

We, the 2015 cohort of the IGERT Costs and Communities program, were all born in the 1980’s. We saw in our homes the fast changes brought by technology, and the path the world was taking towards using natural resources. In Brazil I remember when my parents bought the first telephone for our home. We were the only house in the whole block that had a landline. Our neighbors would often give our number to their families, and when the phone rang, my sister and I would run to their homes and let them know they had got a call.

In that time, my dad bought our first car. Then my mom needed a fax machine for her clinic, and her first cell phone came shortly after. Later we got a computer, and then another one, and another one… You get the idea. Nowadays, across the world, a vast majority of the population is used to having cars, cell phones, computers, dishwashers, etc. And those of us who were born in the 80’s saw these changes inside our homes. They were very good changes. Today the world is more connected, things are more efficient, and there is more information available.

But we, the 80’s kids, also grew up with another thing. We were told that we needed to care for our planet. Our educators took us in nature walks, and taught us about the water and carbon circles. We know, since we were little, that it is important to have a clean environment, to eat healthy, and to have a balanced life. Some of us, might have even been told, that we were the future of the world, and that we would have to save the planet.

We all followed similar and yet different paths. Some of us went to study biology and marine sciences, and others decided to focus more on the social, economic and political aspects of the world. And now we are together (again?). In September 2015, I met my new IGERT fellows. It didn’t take us long to identify with each other. We are very used to modern technology, and yet extremely connect to our natural environment. We use all sorts of online platforms to organize group projects and happy hours. We talk about fish biology, corals, illegal trade, renewable energy, invasive species, environmental stewardship, corporate social responsibility, and the Amazon basin (my favorite topic!).

When we look at each other, we remember why we are here. When we were little we were told to change the world. We are here to change ourselves. We are IGERT scholars because we recognize our limits, and because we see a value in collaboration. We came to this program not because we know everything about our areas of interests, but rather because we need help in addressing issues that are pressing to us. We are here because the changes that happened in our homes have impacted the whole world. And now it is up to us to decide what changes we are going to adopt in our current homes, and what decisions in the world we will influence.

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