This I Believe

My life has been woven by the theme of the unconventional. From my parents’ origins to the way I saw the ordinary things of the world, I knew that I might never quite fit in anywhere.

Growing up in the outskirts of the largest city in South America, I found refuge amongst the trees, plants, and animals of the Atlantic Rainforest. It was a privilege to be able to wake up hearing the birds and monkeys in the mornings and fall asleep to the sounds of the frogs. My parents’ deep love and respect for nature effortlessly ingrained in me. I felt at home when I was outside. I instinctively knew that I was a part of something larger than myself. Through those early experiences, I began to understand that nature is—as Leopold so insightfully put it—“a community to which we belong.” I began to understand that every one of us—every species of plants, species of animals, soil, water, and air—are all intrinsic and interdependent parts of this complex world we live in.

Overlooking the city of São Paulo from “Pedra Grande” (The Great Rock) in the Cantareira State Park in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo taken by Hari Baumbach taken in 2008.

Overlooking the city of São Paulo from “Pedra Grande” (The Great Rock) in the Cantareira State Park in São Paulo, Brazil. Photo taken by Hari Baumbach in 2008.

Growing up with that intimate connection with the natural world, I had trouble understanding the mainstream “progress” minded, dissecting, segregationist, and utilitarian relationship our society has with nature. A relationship that ultimately led to the pollution, destruction, impoverishment, and injustice I could so easily see from the top of the Great Rock that overlooked the cancerous, gray, smog-filled São Paulo from the no-longer-so-pristine Atlantic Rainforest I once called home. Our world today is filled with case studies of injustice to our land and to all of the living beings on it.

Our relationship with the Earth ultimately reflects our relationship with ourselves. I believe that all of our needs are intertwined and interdependent. There is no separation. We must care for our world and each other, as the family we truly are.

I believe in the power we all have to work together to create a more harmonious Earth community. A community that thrives on the understanding of our interdependence with each other, on the principles of sustainability, and on the acceptance and embracement of diversity.

Working at the Environmental Center

My experiences at the Environmental Center have helped me better articulate my beliefs and values by providing me with opportunities to both share ideas with and present ideas to a diverse range of audiences in a varied range of contexts. From working on projects to educate the community about environmental issues to leading a group of students on projects to solve a local problem, I have been encouraged and empowered to learn to clearly communicate myself.

Round up of great documentaries about environmental issues

Environmental Film

Environmental Film

Issues that affect the entire planet can sometimes be difficult to grasp from a book or an article. Fortunately, there are increasingly more
filmmakers creating great documentaries that provide footage of the actual effect climate change and other environmental issues are having on the world, on ecosystems, and the people living on the planet. The great part about it is that many of them are also available online for free. I have selected some of the ones I watched recently and provided them here for you (you don’t even need to leave this page. Well… Almost.):

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (2011)

 Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization was produced by PBS as one of the episodes of the series Journey to Planet Earth. It is a great documentary because it lays out many of the environmental issues we are facing, but also provides a hopeful road map of ways to solve them.

Climate Refugees (2010)

Climate Refugees is an amazing award-winning documentary that discusses people who have been displaced due to environmental disasters caused by climate change and how we should expect more people to face problems like these in the near future. It provides a very powerful statement that brings up many important questions about human rights, immigration, and responsibility in these issues.

Blue Gold (2008)

Blue Gold is a great documentary about the most basic and precious resource we need as living creatures: water. It talks about the very serious issues relating to water scarcity and how that is already affecting many people and could potentially become a major cause of conflict in the world.

Chasing Ice (2012)

Chasing Ice is this beautiful and powerful award-winning documentary about climate change, but you’ll have to come to the Environmental Center’s next REEL Film Experience fundraiser on December 5th, 2013 to watch it. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to see this film and support the EC!

~ Hari Baumbach, Climate Action Team

My Obsession With Human Dwellings

I recently became obsessed with human dwellings. I’m not sure why or when this happened exactly; I just know that the housing crisis had something to do with it. My mom and my dad (despite being born and growing up in completely different countries—US and Brazil, respectively) both grew up in humble blue collar households and their parents instilled in them the value of honest hard work as a means to make a living.

As an American, I have been exposed to the foundational values of the “American Dream” of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This freedom in pursuing happiness offered anyone, even those born in lower social classes, the possibility of attempting to “climb the social ladder” and attain means higher than those with which they grew up. This is the basis of the so-called “American Dream” and this dream was, and still is, shared by Americans and people from other nations alike. It seems, however, that at some point in our history, this dream became synonymous with having the commodities that we have become so exposed to through advertisements and the media in general. From my perspective, this distortion of peoples’ priorities has created a lifestyle of excess where the average American is gearing away from the promised “happiness” and moving towards personal economical burden and a general reduction of quality of life. This lifestyle, in turn, is also contributing to the environmental degradation of an already very depleted planet.

However, “how does this relate to my obsession with human dwellings?” you might ask.Well, somewhere along the line I found out that one of the areas of our society that has experienced this increasing trend of “more is better” has been the size of homes. The median size of the new average American home has doubled since 1950, while the amount of people per household has decreased by over 25%, making our houses the biggest in the world—four times larger than the international average. This increase of size standards, however, has brought more of a burden to the average American than it has a sense of comfort, especially in light of the economic crisis we are barely coming out of, in which many people lost or nearly lost their homes.

This latter part, I’m afraid I cannot relate to. I grew up mostly in Brazil and my parents had a motto “don’t spend it unless you actually have it,” and it carried them through saving enough money to pay for our house in cash. My parents built our home slowly (I can still remember living for years in a house with only a few rooms actually finished), but they never had a mortgage.

In addition to the economic burden caused partially by the current size of our homes, there are many environmental consequences related to their construction and energy consumption. Around 40% of all of the raw materials consumed by humans are used in construction (around three quarters of an acre of forest are needed to build the average American home and it adds seven tons of waste to the landfill). At its current average size of 2,349 square feet, an American house emits more carbon dioxide than the average American car.

In light of our current energy crisis, dwindling natural resources and climate change, these numbers are especially startling. Despite all of the advancements in building techniques to improve insulation and design, houses still consume the same amount of energy as those built in the 1960s. The culprit, apparently, is the size of the homes.

While the majority of the population continues to partake in this culture of “excess”, others, in search for a happier and more sustainable way of living, have chosen to reconsider their lifestyles and take steps towards downscaling and simplifying their lives.

Some of these “others” are a part of what has been called the “Tiny House Movement.” This movement started out with people who advocate simple living through small dwellings for sustainability and financial freedom.

tiny houses

Some Americans choose to live in small houses to avoid going into debt and live more simply with the Tiny House Movement. Photo courtesy of Portland Alternative Dwellings (

Since I stumbled upon tiny houses, I became avidly interested in ways that people can live that don’t fit the status quo. As young people, we are in the perfect position to explore and discover new ways to solve the problems of our current times. So, if you are interested in ways to live more frugally, I’d recommend checking out the following documentary:

By Hari Baumbach

Reclaimed Art: Toilet paper roll wall art

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

Wall Art From Toilet Paper Rolls

So much of what we end up throwing out or recycling could become something new. Reclaiming materials before they go to the landfill or even get recycled is a much more eco-friendly alternative. In this post, I’ll be showing you how even toilet paper rolls can turn into something beautiful without that much effort.

How to make wall art from toilet paper rolls

What you will need:

What you will need.

Materials and tools you will need.

  1. Toilet paper rolls (the amount will depend on the size of your piece).
  2. Sharp scissors
  3. Clothes pins
  4. Acrylic paints and a palette to mix them
  5. Paint brushes
  6. Ruler
  7. Pencil (and eraser in case you make a mistake)
  8. While glue

Stage 1: Planning

Step 1

Step 1: Decide on shape and design.

You can work with any number of shapes and your design can be as large as you want (also consider that the more rolls you have, the larger it can be).

For this example, we are going to work with leaf shaped toilet paper rolls and a wreath like design (which is a great eco-friendly holiday season decor piece) shown below.

Design Example

Design Example

Stage 2: Prepping

Step 2.1

Step 2.1: Mark cut measurements.

2.1  Grab the ruler, the pencil, and the toilet paper rolls and make 1 inch markings along the length of the toilet paper roll as shown above. You can vary on the size of your markings, but keep in mind that if they are not deep enough, they may not show as much, and if they are too deep, they may not glue together very well (see side view of finished piece below for an example of the 1-inch depth). You can also play with using different depths, if that’s an effect you’re looking for. In these examples, all pieces are the same size.

Depth view

1-inch depth view.


Step 2.2

Step 2.2: Draw cut guides.

 Next, use your ruler and pencil to draw cut guides to help you cut the toilet paper rolls.

Step 2.3

Step 2.3: Cut toilet paper rolls.

2.3 Next, use the scissors to cut the toilet paper rolls along their markings.


Step 2.4

Step 2.4: Paint toilet paper roll parts.

2.4 Next is painting, so pick out your acrylic paint colors and paint brush and go for it. Make sure to coat the toilet paper roll piece well and get every little corner. Let dry a little and check to see if you missed any spots. It should look fully coated when you’re done (see example below). It is also helpful to paint the outside first, set it aside to dry, then paint the inside as well (and don’t forget the edges, as they will show the most in a front view). If you want an iron look (which actually looks really good), use a black with a little brown in it. If you’re going for a holiday look, red and greens work well. You can also play with textures and with mixing colors.

Painted example.

Painted example.


Stage 3: Assembling

Step 3.1

Step 3.1: Glue pieces together.

3.1 First: make sure to lay out your design to have a sense of how you want the pieces to connect to each other. Then, grab a section of 2-3 pieces and with a brush, apply a small amount of glue to one of the sides touching each other.

Step 3.2

Step 3.2: Clamp glued pieced with clothes pin.

Clamping view from above.

Clamping view from above.

3.2 Immediately after applying glue, use clothes pins to hold pieces together while glue is drying. Wait at least 5 minutes before releasing “clamp”. Continue to repeat steps 3.1 and 3.2 until you finish assembling your design.

That’s it for today!  I hope you enjoy this post and please share your own tips on how to reclaim materials to give them a new life!

Art from waste: An Interview with artist Vivian Krishnan

Artist Vivian Krishnan and works.

Artist Vivian Krishnan (left center) and friends modeling her work at the fashion show. (Photo by Hari Baumbach)

Reusing materials that would otherwise go to waste is becoming more common in the art world. Fort Lewis College art student Vivian Krishnan is one of these artists who decided to turn “trash” into art. Last week, her work along with other students’ work was showcased at FLC’s Art Department fundraiser at the Lost Dog Bar in downtown Durango. Here’s what Vivian has to say about her work.

Hari Baumbach: Tell me a little about yourself (background, hometown, major, artists who inspire you, art that you like to do).

Vivian Krishnan: I was born and raised in Kailua, Oahu HI. I live in Denver when I’m not attending school at the Fort. My major is in Studio Art with an Art History minor. For the time being I have been very inspired by multiple designers like Vallentino, Hugo Boss, and Calvin Klein. Robin Barcus Slonina who is a sculptor has had a huge influence on me. Besides sculpture, I love working with textiles and well as printmaking.

HB: How did the wearable art project come to be and how/ why did you decide to use materials that would’ve otherwise gone to waste to create your pieces?

VK: The first time I tried out this wearable art idea was when I started one of sculpture projects assigned by Jay Dougan. We were asked to find an artist we liked and produce work inspired by them. The artist I chose was Robin Barcus. She takes dress forms to a whole new level she makes a lot of her pieces out of natural things like pinecones and flowers so I thought I would use materials that were quite the opposite.

HB: What materials are used and what techniques did you employ to turn the materials into your pieces?

VK: For a few of my pieces I used plastic grocery bags from Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s. By fusing multiples layers of the plastic with an iron I was able to create a sturdy fabric. Other materials that I used were hardware cloth, newspaper, bubble wrap, packaging foam and peanuts, and City Market paper bags.

HB: How did you envision the impact your work would have on your audience? Did you have a specific message in mind? If so, what was your message?

Vivian and I

Vivian and I after the fashion show.

VK: I haven’t really thought of the impact. People just kept telling me how pretty the outfits were so it doesn’t seem very different from making normal clothes. My message is mostly just that if we have these materials lying around why not just give them one last good use and make something out of them. All it takes is time and I think its time worth spending. Playing around with the idea of what is fabric is another key factor in my work.

HB: What part do you think artists play/ can play/ should play in creating awareness about social and environmental issues?

VK: Artists have a huge influence on others. The audience may not agree or like it but, if someone see’s work with a clear message they will probably remember it and tell others about it. Talking about the process we go through as artists is also important. When I was making my pieces, it was very important to me that I limit the amount of waste I created.

HB: In which ways do you feel your work could change people’s relationship to waste?

Rubbish can be pretty! Recycling can lead to beautiful things and I just hope that people can see from my work that if you’re not going to limit your waste at least deal with it properly.

HB: In your own words, how did you feel the fashion show on Thursday came together? Were you happy with the outcome?

VK: The show could not have happened with out all the students that helped and the handful of teachers who supported it. There was a lot of teamwork that went into the production of the show. I’m just really proud of all of the artists, students, and the Gallery Management class that helped Sarah Swoboda, Elizabeth Gand, and myself. I am so happy about how it went! I couldn’t have asked for a better night.

HB: What are your hopes for the future? Are you planning to continue working with “unusual” materials on future projects?

VK: Absolutely, I have become obsessed with using plastic grocery bags. My apartment is full of them just waiting to be used! I hope to make more clothes and perhaps accessories.

HB: Do you have any final comments or statements you would like to add?

VK: I really just want to thank Elizabeth Gand (the art history professor) for taking an interest in my work and giving me the chance to push it further. Also, there is nothing wrong with being more aware of ourselves and our surroundings. Recycling is so easy!

~ Hari Baumbach