Hope in a Hotter Time

Explorations in sustainability & justice

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The posts on this site are written by students in the Freshman Inquiry class Sustainability at Portland State University and contain accounts of some of their explorations of how we might transition to more equitable, sustainable, and resilient society.

The blog borrows its title from the essay “Optimism and Hope in a Hotter Time” by David Orr.

Thanks for reading.


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The Other

It is commonly known, and easy to notice, that minds that think alike tend to stick together. Its more comfortable that way. Our ideas and opinions are encouraged, valued, and agreed with, but this is also isolating and creating big separations in our society. There is us with our opinions and there is the “other” with their opinions. Differences of opinions and the tensions that come with it are the cause of many wars and violence, an obvious example being the long held separation between democrats and republicans. How far could just acknowledging the “others” and their different opinions go? Not trying to convince them that you are right, or feeling pressured to change our mind, but just acknowledging and talking about your differences. That was the concept behind our assignment of creating a podcast that documents the bridging with an “other”.

The idea of purposefully sitting through an uncomfortably awkward conversation with someone who, under most circumstances, I would easily argue with, was not appealing. Although I knew it would be uncomfortable, I also knew that bridging the gap is important. I though finding someone to talk to would be difficult, since most of the people I know share relatively similar opinions to me, but then I remembered a conversation I had at a dinner party a few weeks ago.

My close friend’s roommate, Steve, was saying some things during dinner that I got a bit defensive about. We were having a conversation about relationships, and it became very apparent to me that he has very “traditional” views when it comes to gender roles and relationships. After the dinner, I was feeling a bit bothered by what he had said, and I was very quick to write him of as someone who I probably would never get along with. I then realized he was the perfect candidate for my project, since he is eloquent, very much enjoys discussions, not a stranger and friendly enough that I could keep myself from getting too riled up. I then invited him to do the project with me. I also invited my friend Micheal, Steve’s roommate, to join because I thought he could add some interesting opinions and middle ground to the conversations.

The conversation we had went a little too well, and when I say that, I mean it lasted two and half hours. The first hour was not recorded, due to technical difficulties and my lack of tech savvy-ness. That one and a half hour that was recorded was mostly Steve and my sister, who ended up joining the conversation as well. He told us of his background and we discussed how that could have affected his traditional views, and we talked about what we think about stereotypical gender roles, amongst a myriad of other topics. When we were nearing the end of the conversation, Steve said “I can’t remember the last time I’ve had such an open conversation about my views like this, without feeling judged”. That was when I realized that the conversation had been successful in bridging the gap that was between us.

Steve and I still disagree, but the point of the conversation was not to convince one another. It was to just talk about our differences, acknowledge them, and not get angry or defensive – to realize that we really don’t have to agree, and destigmatize the “other”. Steve and I have seen each other since and will probably continue to be friends.

I understood that surrounding yourself with diversity of opinions that challenge you can help you to be more humble and open minded, but this experience only emphasized it more. Editing the actual podcast was a whole other challenge I had to face, but the process of the project proved to have a benefit I will hopefully carry on. Bridging the gap with the “others” that have more drastic differences of opinion will probably be much more difficult, but its possible and I encourage people to try.



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Community Engagement Project

For our community engagement project, we really wanted to learn more about the institute of Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University. We felt it was key to understanding all the activities and events surrounding sustainability on campus. We first met with one of the program managers at  the ISS, Beth Lloyd- Pool. She explained exactly what the ISS’ mission is and what they are doing for the community. She really gave us insight into the different sectors of Sustainability and how it can be found all over the place. One thing that really struck out to me was when she was describing a project they do in the Cully neighborhood, which is a low income neighborhood by where I live. This was really nice to hear because being close to the community I have seen the impact these projects have and just how much it really is affecting the residents. Its nice to see that ISS at PSU also cares about surrounding communities. As we divulged on the different areas, she brought up the Garden task force, which we decided we wanted to further investigate. A couple of our group members attended a seed plating event, as well as a task force meeting. Our group found these events to be very enlightening on the work they do around Portland State and the kind of difference it makes. I really enjoyed getting involved for this project and learning how to create a more sustainable community.


Forest Park 2.0

Spring is without a doubt my favorite season of the year especially when I’m in Oregon. The main reasons are that there are more sun hours in the day, the weather is finally nice and warm and especially because everything around is green and blooming. When I found out that me and my sustainability class are planning to go for another trip to forest park but compared to the previous time this time in the warm spring and not in the cold winter I know it’s going to be a very enjoyable field trip. At their website the forest park people describe the park as “ At 5,157 acres, Portland’s Forest Park is one of the largest urban forest in the United States. With more than 80 miles of soft-surface trails, fire lanes and forest roads. Forest Park offers an unparalleled opportunity for visitors to experience a true Northwest forest without leaving the Portland city limits.” If you  are asking me this description is and exact description of what the park really is a huge green forest that give you the impression like you are in the middle of the jungle far away from anything and not that you are only 15 minutes from Portland’s downtown.

When we got to the park we split up to small groups and we walked around in order to find as many different kinds of animals and plants as we can. My group and I have found a nice variety of plants that without the plant identification book and the help of my teammates I would have never knew there names. In addition to the plants we found a few really cool animals/insects like slugs and salamanders and even that we had to put a lot of effort in finding them I think it was worth it. I really enjoyed this field trip and I learned a lot, I think that the method of learning new stuff with when we are outside doing something instead of setting in the class is a great method and I wish that anyone of my other professors would take an example from Dr. Grewing and will try to teach us new materials with more trips and actions and less lectures.  



Anarchists & Liberals

One of the main things that attracted me to Portland was that it appeared to be a liberal mecca. Before moving here, I was under the impression that the majority of those who lived here were pretty leftist and generally not super republican. I naively thought that Porltanders were, for the most part, tolerant and accepting of others views. It did not take long for me to realize that politics in Portland are not as simple as I had earlier thought.

This realization came about throughout the midst of Donald Trump’s election, inauguration, and presidency. Personally, I was never a supporter of Trump and naturally was upset that he won the election. I was not at all alone in this conviction. For days, weeks, and months after his election protests took place. Many, including myself, refused to even identify Trump as their president. Actively participating in the protest scene was both awesome and thrilling, but I started to notice that even the “leftist” Portlanders who marched beside me didn’t always follow the same school of thoughts as me. I developed friendships with these protesting peers, and it was through those friendships that I came to learn about the difference between us.

The friends I developed were more heavily involved in the protests than me. They helped to organize the protests and maintain security for those involved. This meant that they were usually wearing all black or “black block” as well as covering their faces with masks. While these friends shared the same political goals that I had, they were supportive of using more radical means to send their message. Usually, this meant that they would be comfortable with breaking windows, setting fires, or otherwise being destructive. I found the concept to be a difficult one to wrap my mind around. Wouldn’t vandalism and violence detract from the movement? What was the point of wrecking the city? Why wasn’t it enough to peacefully protest?

These are the questions that I look forward to having answered in my conversation project. These friends of mine have agreed to sit down and speak with me about what it really means to be an anarchist and why they choose to identify with that title. My hope is that we can all come to understand each other a little better. If we’re on the same side, it will be much easier to fight for positive change.


Rebuilding Lives

For my groups’ community engagement project, we volunteered at the Rebuilding Center. At first, the task seemed very tedious, but as the project came to an end I realized volunteering didn’t take much of my time. At first, it seemed as though we would be taking days from our lives. To complete this process we first called the center, then we had to go through training, and lastly sign pre-volunteer wavers. It turned out to only take around 4 hours which was very doable. From this experience I realized it doesn’t take a lot of time to volunteer, to make even a small difference.

For the project we arrived at one of the Rebuilding’s center lots where they store their tiny houses. Here we worked with other volunteers by taking blocks of wood, separating them, and then taking out the nails. We repeated this process for a couple of hours.

Our tools included:

  • Crowbars
  • Hammers
  • Gloves
  • Protective Goggles
  • Dedication


    After a long day at work we took a group picture

Sneak peak to my Podcast:

For this assignment I will be having a conversation with one of my best friends. Although we agree on a lot of topics we still butt heads in ever more concepts. One of those we will be addressing will be: School Uniforms. We’ll each share our opinion, and we’ll see how this conversation works out.

Tune in soon for an interesting conversation!


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Blog Post #3

I thought that are community engagement project was successful in terms of an assignment but more so as an introduction to getting more involved in the community. The surprising part is how simple the whole process was, I originally thought I would have to take a lot of time out of my schedule in order o volunteer but it just takes a simple phone call and a couple hours free on the weekend.

Forest Park was incredibly different in comparison to our earlier visit in the fall.  You can notice the differences almost as soon as you reach the entrance with the ample amount of wildlife roaming and the flowers blooming. The weather being a lot warmer I would guess has a lot to do with this. I thought that the identifying portion of the experience had a lot to do with the mindfulness portion of the class that we have been touching on with our daily meditations in the sense of having more of a connection with nature and how the outdoors can have a similar affect.

For my Podcast I was going to discuss the current administration change with my Conservative roommate and his opinions on separation of Church and State in our country since he is very religious. I thought this would be a good way to try and understand his viewpoint since I really don’t know many people with this perspective and I’m curious about his opinions about all that has been happening.

-Jeremy Husserl


Forest Park (Part Two)

On May 18th, our Sustainability class returned to Forest Park after two full terms. I personally hoped that there would be a little bit more sunshine, but overall, it was a completely different experience than it was the first time around. Not only did it have something to do with the fact that we actually all know each other much better, but the area was so much more beautiful; I think we were all more appreciative of it after a long winter without a lot of greenery. As far as appreciating it differently, I would say that in fall term, it looked very bleak. I don’t have any pictures from when we went the first time, but I did include a picture that I took of the sun peeking through the leaves near the very end of our most recent trip. It’s below:


Plants were much easier to identify for a couple of reasons: the first reason being that, during Fall term, we didn’t actually spend time identifying plants like we did this Spring term, and were more focused on the themes surrounding Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The second reason is that, surprise surprise, plants are actually flowering and blooming in Spring. This makes them so much easier to identify, and my group actually managed to identify quite a few right off the bat.

The only negative difference about this most recent trip was that we didn’t see or hear hardly any birds; I think I only saw one during the whole trip. I really do like birds, and I was excited to use my Bird ID app that we talked about in class (I was walking around, looking for birds, with the app open and ready to go), but it looks like I’ll just have to wait.

I enjoyed hanging out with my classmates and being outside in the pretty Oregon spring weather. Overall, it was a great experience, and I would recommend taking your classes there (if you are a student/teacher, dear reader)!