Educating the Unaware

Avoiding the Extreme Greens

August marked the one-year anniversary of my life-altering semester abroad, and I’m excited to admit that simplicity still permeates my daily routine. I’m maturing and growing and adapting to life as a college graduate, all the while fighting to maintain the values I so carefully developed last fall.

To my surprise, my peers have taken notice, continually seeking to understand the root of what makes me, me. “Is this brand, you know, ethical?” they ask, and “Would you eat tomatoes from this company?”

When I arrived in Boston, Massachusetts to begin life as a young professional, my co-workers immediately picked up on my pursuit of a sustainable diet, boldly asking for suggestions and recommendations. Though honored, their interest in my way of life led me to wonder: as a closet hippie, how can I best influence those around me? Can my model of simplicity truly make a difference?

I’m convinced it can. The “green push” has, by all accounts, become a nationwide movement, drawing supporters from all ends of the earth who function from vastly different perspectives. These “greenies” seem to continually spread the same message: if we don’t become vegetarians, install solar panels on our roofs and ride bikes to work, the planet on which we live will deteriorate forever. I’m not one to disagree with this statement, though I am one to disagree with this approach.

You see, when we bombard our neighbors with personal opinion, we work to segregate the passionate from the unaware.  Becoming a societal outcast does little to attract others to a lifestyle that, at its core, benefits both our planet and our citizens, enabling  us look beyond our current context. Relatability leads to interest, interest leads to understanding and understanding leads to change.

So, as a closet hippie, how can I truly benefit those around me? How can I humbly educate those who contribute to our country’s overwhelming waste issue, infatuation with fast food and tendency to over-consume? By living my life as simply as possible while still keeping both feet in the world of the less-educated. Do I compost and shop at farmer’s markets and try to buy from socially-responsible brands?

You bet.

But I try to let my actions speak truth instead of my t-shirt, enabling my neighbors to keep me accountable. I want to make a difference, but I do not want to overwhelm; I want to be a source of truth, but I do not want to become an outcast; I want to be appreciated, but not overlooked. In this troubled world, I want to mix the passionate with the unaware, working to make my community a sustainable community.

“We cannot hope to create a sustainable culture with any but sustainable souls.” (Derrick Jensen)

Belizean Reflections, Recognizing the Earth

Finding Simplicity in the Sky

As I traveled through Belize, experiencing the hopeful greens, bold blues and brave pinks of the Caribbean canvas, I couldn’t help but quietly observe the world around me. This painting presents something entirely new–a palette of colors that only seems fit for the imagination.

In Belize, the sky plays an integral role in country’s natural beauty. Dreary days do little to amplify the freely-growing hibiscus trees, and densely packed clouds do little to bring out the lucid blue water that covers the coast. When you do wake up to a cloudless morning, the country comes alive. The locals smile and greet you, the pace of life slows down, and the elegance of Belize can be seen in every direction.

Now settled into life in the United States, I’ve rediscovered this concept. Blue skies bring out the best in my classmates, as they roam freely across campus to soak in the refreshing color. Red barns and green grasses show brilliantly against the blue tarp that surrounds us, providing insight into how this world looked before we arrived. It’s a simple realization, though it plays a crucial role in my daily routine. The sky serves as a backbone; without its deep blue hue, the earth stands sluggishly before us.

“The sky is that beautiful old parchment in which the sun and the moon keep their diary.” (Alfred Kreymborg)

Belizean Reflections

The Background: Why Simplicity?

In August 2012, I enthusiastically boarded a plane for the rainforest of Cayo, Belize, in search of an escape. I wanted to withdraw the complications of college life; I wanted to experience, for one semester, a life with limited commitment and responsibility. Over the course of my four month journey, Belize molded my perspective on life in America, showcasing the value of simplicity in a world that strives for complexity. I never plan to look back.

Still Belizean Campus

The view from my front porch in Santa Elena, Belize

My semester abroad focused on two key principles: relating to the earth and living simply. Along with 16 fellow students and six staff members, I shared common meals, participated in communal chores and traveled throughout Central America as an engaged ecotourist. Along the way, I earned an education in faith, justice, ecology and sustainable development, understanding first hand how American culture impacts the developing world.

Over the next several weeks, I hope to dialogue about the people who changed my life, the lasting habits I acquired, and the simple life I continue to live. If my words resonate with your passions and motivations, or challenge your current values, I encourage you to continue the conversation by commenting below.

Thank you for joining me.

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” (Leonardo Da Vinci)