Student government leader gets philosophical on environment
Summer research for Meghan Geouque '22 with mentor Crystal L'Hote of philosophy faculty connects Heidegger and modern movements like Bright Green, Deep Ecology
Saint Michael’s College rising senior Meghan Geouque ’22 combines both her Environmental Studies and Philosophy majors for her summer 2021 research project titled “Exploring Environmentalism through Heidegger.”
“I was excited to spend the summer learning about topics that are important to me, while engaging with both philosophy and environmental studies in a more exploratory way,” said Geouque, who is president of the Saint Michael’s Student Government Association (SGA) and a native of Landenberg, PA.
By delving into the work of philosopher Martin Heidegger,and environmental movements such as the Deep Ecology and Bright Green, she said, “the goal of this research is to explore the relationship between environmentalism and philosophy.”
In examining the philosophical assumptions and consequences of each of these environmental movements, Geouque said, she hoped to be guided by the questions of “how can Heidegger’s work be used to understand the greater philosophical implications of these environmental movements?”
Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher whose work affected the philosophical movements of phenomenology [an approach that focuses on the study of consciousness] and existentialism [the inquiry of human existence that emphasizes an individual freedom and choice]. On the other hand, movements such as Bright Green and Deep Ecology focus on an eco-philosophical belief between the relationships of humans, technology, and nature. While both movements vary in their missions and ideologies, both recognize the idea of changing human’s relationship to nature to find a successful path to sustainable development, she said.
Geouque’s mentor, Professor Crystal L’Hote of the Saint Michael’s philosophy faculty, explained further: “Meghan’s project is timely and important. As environmental practice turns toward the technological (think geoengineering the climate), understanding the philosophic relationship between technology and nature is vital,” L’Hote said.
Geouque approached L’Hote, and they worked together to identify a topic that would excite them both, tap Geouque’s unique strengths, and position her well for the future. As a double major in philosophy and environmental studies, Geouque was really looking for a project that could combine both of her interests in a unique and engaging way.
“Heidegger’s work makes specific reference to the human relationship with nature, so he has long been used in discussions of eco-philosophy,” Geouque said. “I selected him because of his continued presence in environmental philosophy and because I wanted the chance to explore this presence in my own way.”
Besides working through Heidegger’s work, Geouque used these ideas and applied them to the campus farm at Saint Michael’s College. By examining the farm, she could “see what type of philosophical beliefs are implicit in the practices used there,” she said.
“I was inspired to choose this topic because throughout my time at St. Mike’s, I have seen many exciting connections between philosophy and environmental studies,” she said. “I’m inspired to explore how these connections can be used to address the environmental problems of today’s world in a new way.”
“I think the most important thing I took away from this research is that rather than using Heidegger to simply evaluate environmental movements, it is more worthwhile to use Heidegger’s philosophy to think about the human relationship with nature and technology in a new way,” she said. “Heidegger has the potential to help us create new ways of thinking and talking about technology, environmental problems, and our relationship with the rest of the world.”
In the end, Geouque hopes to present her research to an introductory level philosophy course taught by Professor L’Hote, in the form of a short presentation.