What’s Next For VHS ‘17: Environmental Economics

By on August 28, 2017
Steve Bass

Steve Bass (back row, center) did his senior Capstone with Sustainable Verona, helping with its Green Fair this spring.

Up in Binghamton, N.Y., the trees are beginning to think of turning orange and red. But for for Steve Bass, a Verona High School Class of 2017 graduate and incoming freshman at the State University of New York at Binghamton, the world will always be green.

Bass picked SUNY Binghamton because of its emphasis on environmental studies. While almost every American college and university has an environmental major these days, Binghamton has a whole world of them, with seven specializations that run from ecosystems and environmental chemistry  to earth sciences and natural resources, public policy and law, environmental planning, ecological anthropology and Bass’ choice, environmental economics.

The major, which Bass will officially declare next fall, builds on interests that he developed as a student in Verona’s public schools. As a VHS freshman, he participated in an Earth Day cleanup of the Peckman River organized by the Verona Environmental Commission.  He then went on to take AP Environmental Science (and many other Advanced Placement classes).  The VHS Senior Capstone program also gave Bass some real life exposure to environmental economics.  Working for the Township of Verona under the direction of Steve Neale, he assisted with Sustainable Verona’s spring Green Fair, worked on the Sustainable Essex Alliance website, and also worked on a website for collecting information from firefighters in relation to climate change, among other things.

“It was really cool working with all these organizations like Sustainable Verona and the Sustainable Essex Alliance,” Bass says, “because I was able to see all of the behind the scenes work and cooperation between different communities and the departments within them to make all of the programs available to residents.”

Bass also went through Verona’s comprehensive economics curriculum, which includes AP Microeconomics. The environmental economics specialization at Binghamton looks at economic and policy issues relating to the environment, helping students to understand how to efficiently allocate natural and environmental resources.

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“The reason I want to dual major is that I want to keep my options open and explore my interests across both fields,” Bass says. “If I end up liking more of the economics field or more of the sustainability field, I know that they will be mutually applicable. I’m currently interested in sustainability consulting, which entails creating not only cost effective, but environmentally friendly solutions for any business.”

That is important because while the Trump administration is working hard to undo decades of U.S. government progress on the environment, the American business community remains largely committed to it. Big businesses–even some energy companies–had urged President Trump not to abandon the Paris Agreement on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and when he pulled the U.S. out of the multinational pact in June, they were quick to condemn the move. The CEOs of Microsoft and Apple both said their companies remained committed to the pact and Elon Musk, founder of the leading electric car company Tesla Motors, stepped down from Trump’s advisory councils. Bass should also have no problem getting a job in government or academia: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has formed a coalition of American cities, states, companies and universities that are pledging to stick with the greenhouse gas emissions targets set for the U.S. under the Paris accord.

Green is already where the U.S. economy is: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, nearly 3.4 million Americans were were directly employed by the clean energy industry alone in the first quarter of 2016, more than the 2.9 million jobs in the fossil fuels industry. That report also found that the solar and wind industries are creating jobs at a rate that is 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy. For current VHS students who want to see where sustainability is headed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics now tracks green jobs in fields from construction to transportation.

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For now, though, Bass gets to focus on green studies, green exercise and green eating. He was lucky enough to get into a new class on farm-to-table food production at Binghamton this fall that includes hands-on training at Binghamton University Acres, the school’s pesticide-free farm that is maintained entirely by students and volunteers. (Binghamton’s University Dining Services sources 57% of its food within 250 miles of campus and almost all of the rest from within New York state.) He can cover his phys ed requirement with a class in hiking, backpacking or outdoor skills. That’s easy on a campus that covers more than 900 acres of land, over 600 of which remains in its natural state.

The green space at SUNY Binghamton includes an on-campus organic farm and a 182-acre nature preserve.

“What’s Next” is a series of profiles about what members of each Verona High School class intend to do after graduation. MyVeronaNJ has been publishing the series since 2010 and you can read all of them here.

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