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Scholar examines international environmental influences in winning essay

Penn State sophomore Nakul Grover's essay on developing nations and the environment won him a prize in the College of Liberal Arts' Collegiate Laws of Life essay contest. Image: Pat Little
February 2, 2017

Penn State student Nakul Grover had a few options for his topic for the College of Liberal Arts’ Collegiate Laws of Life essay contest. The Schreyer Honors Scholar considered pharmaceuticals, because of a recent meeting with top industry executive Ann Weber. Grover, a native of New Delhi, India, also thought about writing about international students.

“The one that struck me the most was the one on the environment,” Grover said. “It was a challenge, because I’d never done anything like that before.”

Grover’s prize-winning essay, which he will read at the Hintz Alumni Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, contrasts different eras and countries and addresses the relationship between class and sustainability and the difficulties countries like India face when it comes to implementing or even addressing environmentally friendly initiatives.

“Even if there is an eco-friendly initiative, getting a billion and a half people to switch to a different lifestyle is challenging,” Grover said. “On top of that, international governments have been asking developing nations to hold back their development. However, poverty and access to the basics are such pressing issues that they mask the efforts done by the government. Elevating the poor and promoting employment aren’t necessarily eco-friendly processes.

“Somebody from the lower or lower-middle class only aspires to become richer. Troubled with limited access to good quality education, clean food and water, guaranteed and secure employment, high-speed internet, environment comes later. This aspiration to develop has pushed so many poor into the middle-class, where life is ‘stuck.’”

Grover, a sophomore double-majoring in chemical engineering and English, was also inspired in part by the book “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable” by Amitav Ghosh and the depiction of the environment in film and literature.

“There’s so many other things we’re focusing on,” Grover said, “and we don’t have any literature or movies that focus on the environment and don’t end up boring people.”

Co-sponsored by the College of the Liberal Arts and the Paterno Fellows Program, the Collegiate Laws of Life Essay Contest is designed to encourage Penn State undergraduate students to explore ethical values and intercultural issues, and their talent for expressing their views in writing. The three winning essays, which had a limit of 800 words, will be published on Liberal Arts Voices.

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