Sustainability in Scandinavia

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Emily Isaac | DIS Copenhagen, Spring 2020

Although I’ve always been a nature lover, my passion for environmental issues really blossomed in 11th grade, when I took AP Environmental Science. Since then, I’ve been on a full-steam-ahead mission to save the planet. Through my career at Emory, I have tried to pinpoint the area which I believe has the biggest impact on the environment, and I have gradually narrowed in on agriculture and food. It was therefore thrilling to me when I found out that DIS Copenhagen was offering a core course in sustainable food production and consumption.

Me in front of the Danish Parliament

DIS was really the only program I looked into which had the option to focus on environmental science and sustainability, as two separate disciplines. I had been gravitating more towards policy rather than science, so this couldn’t have been more perfect. In my core course, we didn’t just talk about abstract concepts – we looked at very real solutions that were being implemented right there in the city. In addition, every Wednesday was set aside for “study tours,” where each week one of our classes would take us on a trip to visit organizations that directly tied into what we were studying. For instance, my Environmental Policy class took us to the Danish Parliament, where a member of the Danish Green Party gave us a tour and gave us insider insight into the political process. Another week, my “Integrated Climate Change Planning” class took me through the streets and subway stations I used every day, where my professor gave us detailed insight into the logistics and specifics that make up Copenhagen’s city plan.

With each visit, I was more and more blown away with Copenhagen’s innovation and commitment to sustainability. In the classroom, we were able to break down not only what allows these innovations to work, but also talk about if similar solutions would be applicable to the US. I learned about how Danish culture uniquely allows for green solutions to be implemented more easily and with more widespread support. As much as I wanted to take what I learned abroad and apply it back home, I grew to understand that green solutions in the US require a much different approach than in Denmark. Under the amazing mentorship of teachers that had worked firsthand in the industry, I absorbed as much as I physically could about Denmark’s amazing sustainability leadership, and I hope I can one day use everything I learned to push my own country forward as a sustainable leader.