Teaching people the importance of sustainability can be depressing. When trees are being cut down faster than they can grow, sea creatures are being hunted to extinction and our energy sources can’t keep up with our demand, it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting to even think about the future, let alone teach courses about it.
Dr. Erica Wohldmann, a CSUN professor of psychology and sustainability, said she sometimes faces this dilemma.
To relax and renew, she goes backpacking annually by herself in the wilderness, and hikes 80-100 miles in 5-7 days, 11,000 feet in elevation, and she forgets, just for a while, the sad state of the world.
“I actually don’t go out there with the intention of learning anything specific, but I always come back feeling really renewed and balanced,” said Dr. Wohldmann, who goes by “Erica” to her colleagues and students.
Dr. Wohldmann graduated with a joint PhD in Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2006. She is now an assistant professor in the department of psychology at CSUN. She also teaches the only currently available core course, called Best Practices in Sustainability, for the sustainability minor that will officially launch in the fall.
The professor has been involved with the Institute for Sustainability, and was instrumental in getting The University Corporation to ban the use of styrofoam in the marketplace and the Pub.
She is also currently involved in the campus food garden and is in close contact with the Institute for Sustainability.
Wohldmann goes to great lengths to offset her own ecological footprint. She said she mostly eats food from California farmers markets or foraged from her neighborhood She also rarely eats meat or dairy avoids using her car, except when commuting to campus from Venice. She also opts to sometimes ride the bus or her bicycle to work.
“I don’t stop with personal changes,” added Wohldmann. “I’m working on teaching other people how they can also change the world through personal action.”
The sustainability class that Wohldmann is currently teaching covers food choices, policies, agriculture, and other sustainable practices.
When deciding on a location for her annual backpacking trip, Wohldmann chooses a place that is near water, has few people and is physically challenging.
“It’s amazing how strong you feel, physically and emotionally, especially as a woman,” she said.
Wohldmann said she plans on taking her sustainability class backpacking some time in April so that they can also experience the greatness of the outdoors. Hopefully, it won’t be quite as challenging as her regular trips.