Robin Xu ‘15

Before college, my education in environmental issues was minimal. My high school offered little more than the occasional recycling bin and an AP Environmental Science course that didn’t appeal to me because I’d never had much interest in the sciences. Instead, I gravitated towards the social sciences because of these disciplines’ links to my own life. It wasn’t until I arrived at Pomona that I realized environmental issues are related to—and in fact, inseparable from—social issues. It began with my ID1, “Growth,” a class about the social, moral, and environmental consequences of economic and population growth. Through this class, I realized that environmental studies isn’t just about biology and ecology, but also about people and the causes and effects of their actions. Afterward, I became interested in human issues related to the environment, such as urban planning, transportation, and environmental health, and decided to study them by double-majoring in EA and Politics.

The culture of outdoor exploration at Pomona also helped me choose my major. I had lived in Chicago for the first 18 years of my life, so my contact with natural landscapes before college was mostly limited to Lake Michigan. That changed when I arrived at Pomona and there were countless opportunities to see nature first-hand. After my first OTL experience, climbing and sliding down giant sand dunes in the Mojave Desert, I understood why people do it. The awe that a beautiful natural landscape can inspire is unlike any other. I became addicted to it. I now make time to go hiking and exploring whenever I can, whether it is in the mountains near campus, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, or the hills in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. In Oregon, I explored Multnomah Falls, the Columbia River gorge, and the steep cliffs of the Pacific coast. In the Dominican Republic, I dove 20 feet underwater to examine coral and schools of tiny fish. In retrospect, these experiences were important because my concern for the environment wasn’t made real until I saw a bit of what I was caring for. Action seemed much more essential when I could imagine my favorite places endangered by human shortsightedness and irresponsibility.