Somehow, we’ve come to the end of the semester. College can create some pretty weird time distortion, at least for me, as each week seems to stretch out while my perception of the experience of the whole compresses. Anyway, we’ve done a lot of stuff over the past 15 weeks in ENVS220; we’ve learned the basics of using GIS, Gephi, SPSS, Google Earth Tours, and Excel to analyze and present data, I’ve gotten a better grasp of what situated” means and the broader scale of environmental studies, I’ve successfully proposed my concentration, and my lab team is finalizing our project on the Portland Urban Growth Boundary. The project has been a good way to reinforce the tools, even though some of these tools proved more troublesome than we anticipated (looking at you, ArcGIS). Overcoming these difficulties familiarized me more with how ArcGIS works; while I can’t say that I know exactly how to fix any of the myriad problems which can arise, I at least know to closely check the attributes and where to search for help.
Another major part of the past semester has been my work in researching, proposing, and revising my concentration—The Politics of Transportation in Gentrifying Cities. Through an extensive revision process, I reformatted my situated context so that it brings in a focus on certain inherent dimensions of the topic. For me, this resulting in the development of my own nascent thesis about the relationship between gentrification and transportation politics, transposing the factional arguments I’ve witnessed in Seattle and on transit/urbanist blogs into a theorized ideological divide arising from gentrification. The role that transit has played in shaping the landscape of gentrification has associated transit investment and advocacy with urban revitalization, gentrification, and dispossession. This fact then produces and foregrounds splits between progressive urbanist advocates, as comparative evaluative opinions of gentrification and transit can vary dramatically. It will be interesting to pursue these issues more deeply and in different contexts, to assess the veracity of this political relationship. I’m definitely glad to have this jump-start on my thesis, so that I can kick around and develop my thoughts on this matter over a relatively leisurely time-scale.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed the balance of practical and liberal arts knowledge that ENVS 220 has had. The computer tools we’ve learned about are likely applicable for any job closely related to environmental studies, and the freedom we’ve had to pursue our projects and concentration topics has meant that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at issues that I’ve genuinely wanted to investigate.