Engaging with Real Food

By Aolani Peiper, Real Food Challenge Coordinator

The last time I wrote for the Environmental Center was during my freshman year and my first semester at the EC. Now I am nearing the end of my sophomore year, and I am the coordinator of the Real Food Challenge Team. I never would have thought I would be leading this special team of intelligent and hardworking individuals into the realm of food justice and security.

In my time here, the Real Food Challenge has been more than a national campaign for socially just food. It has also been a chance to empower the students and community at Fort Lewis and beyond! Only 2% of Fort Lewis foods were “real” in my first semester here. With the help of my wonderful team, the EC coordinator, and Sodexo staff, we have increased our percentage to 7% in just one year – well on our way to our first major goal of 20%.

It’s an honor to be a part an eclectic community that cares so much about food and the environment. Fort Lewis, the EC, and the Durango community are working towards an ecologically sound, humane, fair trade, and local food system right at home. I thought “real food” was important because it meant a healthier lifestyle for the body and the environment, but it has become something much larger than that.

My perspective has changed a lot since I became involved with the EC. I became turned on to food systems and the social justice side of this work. The fact is, “real food” requires a movement, and I want to make a difference. There isn’t a better way to start than in my own community and at my school. Becoming more involved as an FLC student through the EC has been eye opening. I may not be your typical Environmental Studies major, but I see a difference in what I can do through the Real Food Challenge.

I think its best with a movement like this to hear from the people: the students who live on campus and eat the food here. I love educating people on “real food” and the impacts it can have socially, economically, physically and environmentally. I am especially proud of the Vote Real campaigns my team and I hold as well as the presentations we give. I see the voice of community shining through my team, and I see pressure being put on corporate powers. The Vote Real campaigns give a voice to those who need to be heard. It is food democracy.

Ripples in the Water: The Experience of an Environmental Artist

By Hayley Kirkman, EC Artist & Graphic Designer

Taking on a graphic design internship with the Environmental Center was one of the most important decisions of my college career. Not only am I growing personally and professionally in the design realm, but I am learning how to contribute to society and protect our planet.

When you walk into the EC, you instantly feel a vibrant motility from our atmosphere. That vibrancy is attributed to the plants distributed throughout the office, the chipper-ness of the students and staff, and the sunbeams filtering through the neon cube-people I painted on the windows. The energy is always undeniably positive in this space.

Every person that works or volunteers in the EC is passionate and caring. This is not an overstatement. I have yet to meet anyone here who doesn’t possess a genuine eagerness to help the world. We are a diverse team culminating together to bring social and environmental change. Some of us are gardeners. Some are advocates for real and healthy food. Some are energy-savers. Some are recyclers. And some are artists.

I have recently come to the realization that I want to use art to fight for what’s right. I have the ability to convey important messages through imagery, and with that comes a huge responsibility. Through the EC I am learning what it takes to become a thoughtful, environmentally-conscious citizen, and I am relaying those teachings to others. Although my part as a designer here is small, the action is large in scope.

Last semester, I worked on branding the 15th Annual Reel Film Experience and the EC’s 25th Birthday Celebration. I had never branded an event that huge before – it was attended by hundreds of people. The big, green and black Reel collateral I had fussed with for months were suddenly strewn about all over the town in the forms of posters, advertisements and digital media icons; I was elated.

Towards the end of the semester, I decided to hop off the computer and get my hands on some paint. In response to the situation at Standing Rock, I decided to paint people of all different “colors” uniting together in a body of water on the EC windows. From the outside looking in, you are faced with the question, “What do you stand for?” The EC community doesn’t stand for injustice or the destruction of Earth’s valuable resources, and I’m grateful to have been chosen to reflect that in a public space.

This semester, there are a few upcoming events requiring inspiring posters/promotional materials from me. I am also excited to say that the EC may be in the works of getting a “brand rejuvenation”. I can’t divulge any more information, but I can promise that our organization will only continue to grow stronger and more prevalent in the eyes of our community.

There you have it. I am just an ordinary person trying enrich the community and protect the environment in the ways I am able. And you have this ability, too. As Jane Goodall once said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

A Hidden Gem of Fort Lewis College

By Kelkiyana Yazzie, Real Food Challenge Team

I would probably not have been involved with the Environmental Center if it wasn’t for a friend who told me about it during my first semester at FLC. (Thank you Adam! It amazes me now how many, but not a ton of people, utilize the EC and the amazing opportunities and experiences it offers.

I am a quiet and introverted person, so it was challenging for me to finally walk into the EC and start getting involved.
It turned out to not be as difficult as I thought it would be because Rachel and Alex, a former EC Assistant Coordinator, welcomed me with open arms.

I started out on the Zero Waste Team where I assisted fellow team members with grant writing and educational outreach activities promoting recycling in the residence halls. Our team worked hard to receive grant funding for recycling bins to be placed in every residence hall room on campus.
It was awesome to be part of a team dynamic that worked so well to where we won an award from the FLC Leadership Center for a project that effectively impacted the campus community.

I will never forget my first year at the EC because it positively impacted me so significantly that I started my own projects back home on the Navajo reservation. I helped write a grant to receive funding for a small recycling station at my local chapter house. I also co-founded an annual trash pickup day in my community that will go on its 4th year next summer.

During my third semester with the EC, I decided to try something new and joined the Real Food Challenge Team which I am still a part of today. At the EC, you don’t have to worry about doing something different because there are people there to help you fit in and make you feel comfortable and a valuable asset to a project and team.

The EC and its staff are truly one of the many gems that can be found on campus. I have never felt more welcome anywhere else at FLC due to the strong community based work environment that can be found here.

I have met many wonderful people whether they be student employees/volunteers, FLC faculty and staff, and members of the Durango community. I cherish the friends and connections I have made the past few years working in the EC. It’s nice to know that we are all fighting the same fight.

I always enjoy seeing many new faces at the EC each semester and hope the number of participants in EC projects and events grow. I am sure the EC will change their lives in a good way like it did for me.

I graduate in a few weeks and the EX will be one of the biggest things I will miss about my college experience. However, I am excited to join the EC alumni as an environmental leader in my community and the world.

Thank you for everything Fort Lewis College Environmental Center!

Liberal Arts and Society: Goals, Outcomes, and Obligations

By Mack Carter, EC Energy Impact Team

What is a liberal arts education? Fort Lewis College is one of less than 40 public liberal arts colleges in the United States, but how well do we represent what a liberal arts college is? These are very important questions that need answers in the coming weeks as FLC’s mission and core values are redefined. The proposed mission statement as of 26 October aims for a “liberal education,” as opposed to a “liberal arts education.” The importance of our mission statement and core values may not be apparent at first, but they are the guiding documents for every policy made by the college. They determine what classes are offered or required, how much funding departments get, which student organizations get priority, and so many more things that are integral to the lives of FLC students.

A liberal arts education is loosely defined as a liberal education that grounds itself in the arts and humanities. The goal of this style of education is to contextualize graduates’ knowledge of their specific focus, or major, with a better understanding of the world at large. Specifically, it does this by starting students in subjects like English, history, or philosophy. What purpose does this serve exactly? Apart from providing an excellent proving ground to help college students develop their written communication skills, it educates students about the human experience, about culture, about what our society values, and how we determine what is right and what is wrong. It enables academic success, but more importantly it prepares graduates to think critically about society and about their everyday lives.

The outcome of a liberal arts education is not just a well-rounded, holistically-educated person who can apply their academic knowledge and skills to any situation. That’s the outcome of a liberal education. Graduates from liberal arts colleges, while also having a broad base of knowledge, have been trained in the vague yet absolutely necessary art of examining humanity in terms of the intangibles: our values, our desires, our culture, our ethics. These intangibles are what set humans apart from all other animals on earth. We strive not just for survival and the propagation of our gene pool, but we seek self-actualization, we seek a greater good, we seek something more. Liberal arts graduates know this and are willing to engage with the concept at every level of human life and society. As Plato put it in The Republic, “The object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful.”

Finally, since this is after all a blog for the Environmental Center, let’s talk about the obligations bestowed upon us by a liberal arts education. Since we have the privilege to learn about society from a new perspective, it is our duty to use that knowledge and skill set to help improve society. (For the inherently self-interested core in every human’s 10-million-year-old lizard brain: a better society for everyone else is a better society for you, too.)

Anyone who even briefly studies environmental science from an objective perspective can tell you that the human race is not in a good position. Most research scientists agree that not only is the planet’s climate moving in a direction not compatible with the world’s current state of affairs, but eventually human life won’t even be viable. And again, the scientific consensus is that climate change is largely caused by humans. Our society is constructed in a way that encourages people to focus solely on human achievement rather than appreciating our achievements in context– that we live on a planet with limited resources that fortunately meets the biological and environmental parameters necessary for human life. We may be achieving more than ever before, but we’re doing so by using our natural resources in an unsustainable manner.

People who ignore those facts don’t change anything. All they’re doing is signaling to others that there’s something they value more than the survival of the human race. FLC students, with the knowledge and skills provided by a liberal arts education, can impact our society in meaningful ways. So shouldn’t we be doing something about it? Shouldn’t you be doing something about it?