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.

This I Believe

By Chris Davis, Zero Waste Team member

A focus point of my life is spirituality. I know this is a heavy word and means different things to different people. To me, spirituality is the belief that there is a sacred entity intertwined in every aspect of life. Everything is interconnected and has importance to a functioning planet. On our planet everything is essentially perfect. No matter what the outcome there is need for life, death and rebirth. Because of this pattern there is essentially nothing that is wrong or right; it just is and everything is.

My beliefs are abstract to many people but if they were put into a category it would belong to indigenous beliefs. I spent a lot of time with my friend and spiritual mother, a Shaman to the region of Guatemala. Her name is Leeann and she has helped me through a lot of things, leading me to many of the beliefs I have today. Nature was always an important aspect of my life but as I grew older I became separated from it. I was suffering and Leeann help me reconnect with nature while teaching me her ways. I eventually grasped a new concept of life.

Spirituality is how I relate to the environment. I see the earth as our mother, the mother of all conceivable things on this planet. To me the land is my affirmation of everyday life, the trees are my brothers, wind is my song, and everything is sacred. The environment has been changing because of one of earth’s offspring, humans. In the grand scheme of things what people are doing is not wrong; they are implementing action that is new to the face of the earth. These actions may not sustain life for this generation of earth’s offspring. It is sad that humans are so destructive and so eager to rule whatever they can.

I believe that things were not always this way. Indigenous cultures used to be more sustainable and had intimate relations with the planet. What used to be the life of indigenous cultures is the life I am forever pursuing when I speak of spirituality. If more people follow a path similar to mine acknowledging the environment, biosphere, and life in general as sacred, there would be a great chance for humans to stop their suicide.

 

This I Believe: Meaningful, green decisions

 

Purchasing with the environment in mind.

Purchasing with the environment in mind.

By Leah Payne; Zero Waste Team member

I believe in the power of the consumer. I am a sophomore in college, living in my first apartment and I believe I can make meaningful decisions about what I buy. I think it is important to make thoughtful decisions around consumption during this critical habit-forming stage of my life. If I develop green habits now, chances are I will continue them into adulthood. I believe in being a smart consumer, where careful consideration goes into purchases, especially when the intent is to be mindful of the environment. I believe in practicing the first three ideas in Juliet Schor’s Politics of consumption from her essay The New Politics of Consumption: Why American’s Want So Much More Than They Need.

  1. A right to a decent standard of living.

Schor wants the consumer to make a fundamental distinction between what they need and what they want. Although it might seem a bit cliché, the amount of unneeded items in your living space add up quickly. People are entitled to a decent standard of living, one that isn’t focused on the next new gadget.

  1. Quality of life rather than quantity of stuff.

Consumption is not the same as well-being. The more things you have doesn’t make you a happier person. If we focus on making money to obtain more things our family, leisure, and community time suffer. The capitalist focus could also have adverse impacts of growth on the natural environment and the potentially increase the gap between classes. We should focus on a better quality of life, rather than a quantity of stuff.

  1. Ecologically sustainable consumption.

Schor says consumers know far less about the environmental impacts of their daily consumption habits than they should. When I go to the store I like to ask myself a few simple questions before I decide what to buy.

Where does it come from?

What kind of process did it go through before it reached the shelves?

What is the packaging? Is there a choice between plastic or glass? Which product has the least amount of packing? Can the packing it’s contained in be recycled?

Can you repurpose something you already have or buy something secondhand?

Who am I supporting when I buy this product?

My experience with the Fort Lewis’s Environmental Center has allowed me to express my beliefs and values because it has brought me closer with people who are contentious about the environment and given me a safe space to understand and better articulate me ideas. I have become a part of the community of people who care and push each other to consider new ways of life around sustainability. I am a part of the Zero Waste team and we are trying to assess recycling in campus housing. This experience has shown me that sustainability is not a top priority to a majority of the campus and we are going to have utilize a bunch of different strategies to make sustainability a part of the normal way of life on campus. Through this work I express what I am passionate about and figure out how to educate others about why sustainability is important. I hope that eventually the EC’s community will spread campus wide.