GPI: Carl Hakansson - Environment, Society & Sustainability Professor
By Naidelly Coelho
Interim Asst. News Editor
What is your educational and career background?
I actually went to Framingham State a long time ago. I was a biology major here, and I subsequently went to graduate school, and while I was in graduate school, I left graduate school and went to go to law school. I went to New England School of Law in Boston. I’ve been an attorney for 35 years. I started teaching here part time in 1994 and I started teaching full time in 2005.
Can you tell me about your job at FSU?
Last year, the geography department merged with the physics and earth science department. And so our new department is called the Department of Environment, Society & Sustainability. And I'm a professor in that department. I teach mostly environmental courses and a lot of the law courses that are involved in those programs. For about 10 years, I was asked to write the Climate Action Plan for Framingham State, and I did so and became the sustainable policies coordinator for the University, and then passed that on to someone else. But those are kind of in my major roles here.
Do you have any hobbies you like to do outside of your work?
I'm a musician as well. I've been a musician for a long time. I still play music with various bands. I also like horseback riding. … I'm on a Conservation Commission in my hometown, and so the Conservation Commission has a subcommittee called the Land Stewardship Committee, which is charged with taking care of the conservation land that we have care and custody of. And so I'm the chair of that and I spent a lot of time working in those conservation lands to keep them from being overrun with invasive plants and things like that.
How did you start working with Native Americans regarding environmental and land use issues?
I have always had an interest in environmental issues since I was a student at FSU and prior. I have always had an interest in Native issues that was exacerbated during my tenure as a student at FSU during the early ’70s in the Red Power movement. In 1993, I had the opportunity to visit the Plains Indian reservations and experience firsthand the myriad of issues confronting Native people - environmental and land use issues being only a part of the problem. I then started to find a path where my background as an environmental lawyer could bring some relief to at least the issues that I had some expertise in.
Do you have any advice for students who want to be more environmentally involved?
It seems to me that one thing about being older is you're able to reflect a little bit better than when you're younger because you don't have much to reflect on. But I hate to use this trite term, but to stay the course. The environment is something that always gives back and you can learn so much from just observing environmental things. As I said, I was a biology major when I went to Framingham State and I worked for 10 years in animal behavior, and I still love to do that. I'm in the woods now to watch wildlife and learn from wildlife, how they coexist with each other. How they are able to survive in difficult situations. … A lot of times, people become discouraged going into the environmental field because oftentimes, there's not an obvious job laid out in front of you, but people - whether they are interested in environmental issues do that for employment, or there are other ways that they can make a contribution either through their local boards, like conservation commissions or volunteering, and environmental groups - I guess maybe that's probably the best advice. … If you're in school, if you can volunteer or do an internship with an environmental group that gets you in the door, so that when these positions come up in those types of organizations, they already know you. And knowing somebody's background is really instrumental sometimes in getting some kind of an appointment.