I have flown halfway around the world to begin what could be one of the most influential experiences of my life.
Studying abroad this semester, I'm shacked up in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia (and quite glad to be). I came prepared to soak in all of their environmental practices that I will be able to import to the United States. In the few days I have been here exploring, I have found the green movement in play here through packed public transit systems and solar panels everywhere. But most surprising is the lack of air conditioning.
So here I sit feeling guilty after purchasing a plane ticket that in three months will whiz me half-way around the world. It is not purely for pleasure or play but rather the environmental education that is offered by Australian universities that I feel justifies my monster carbon footprint. I danced around the ethical issues that I was feeling, for if it wasn't for the amazing institutions and unmatched educational experiences that Australia is heralded for, I wouldn't be going. But is that enough?
It was a bright, sunny and unusually warm fall day (thanks, global warming), when I sat down for lunch and committed my meal to coming up with some solutions to how students can become more carbon neutral around campus. A goal of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment is that campuses will become carbon neutral within 10 years of signing the pledge. Already there is a Purple Bike Program, and free rides for students on public buses and trains, so I was looking for something that would aid students who lived too far to ride a bike and weren't near a bus route.
Many campuses have wonderful features such as streams, gardens and art incorporating the environment, and I absolutely love it. TCU has miraculous things to offer as well, they are just a bit tucked away. For example, we have the lovely foyer of the J.M. Moudy building filled with fabulous sculptures, Frog Henge in front of the dance building and we must not forget the Worth Hills pond and stream. This watershed happens to be of particular interest to me, because I was born with a deeply-rooted infatuation with lakes, streams and oceans; I love them all.
Reflecting upon the last few weeks of my writing, I have found that all of my pieces revolve around one point. This point also happens to be the center of the environmental movement and shift in cultural ideology: values. What do you value? What is the Earth worth? What are you willing to give back in order to sustain the Earth? What are you willing to do to ensure the future existence of humankind? While questioning can lead to painful realizations, it is essential for one to reflect and consider our actions today.
Taking a stroll outside always gets me really excited. I love going for walks, but why is it that I feel guilty for walking on the grass? Even going from class to class, it is as if I am breaking a strict social code by making my way across campus via green patches.
Lately, as in my whole life, I have noticed the people staying on the sidewalk. OK, walkways are paved with the intent of pedestrian use, but why not stray from the norm on occasion or make a new habit?
I thought I knew nature. I grew up in a rural area on a large patch of land and thought I had it covered: the birds, bees, deer, coyotes, frogs, turtles, a few ponds, lots of trees and a huge garden.
My perception was absolutely wonderful, until this past weekend. Led by our fabulous professor, 13 eager-minded students headed out in to the "bush" for three intense but enriching days to begin our collection of wetland invertebrates.
Wow, did I have a wake-up call.