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Paradise Pond Symposium

5 Apr

Paradise Pond—the beloved campus and community landmark—is filling with sediment. In the past, the sediment was removed every six to ten years and transported to the Northampton landfill. However, as a result of the landfill closing and concerns over sediment release during excavation, a new sluicing method was proposed. This method allows sediment to continue downstream rather than being captured and removed from the Mill River.Sediment In Pond at 1.49.03 PM

This Friday, April 8th, Smith will host a symposium on the sedimentation issue. The symposium will include a series of talks and poster presentations reporting on the current status of the project. It will also feature a keynote address by Brian Yellen, adjunct faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Join us at the Smith College Conference Center, 49 College Lane, for all or part of the symposium.

Schedule:

10:00 Welcome
10:05 History of Paradise Pond and past dredging operations
10:20 Downstream monitoring: sediment and hydrology
10:40 Downstream monitoring: biology
11:00 Keynote address: Climate Change and Sediment Yield From New England Rivers: Lessons From Tropical Storm Irene
12:00 Lunch and poster presentations
1:00 Analysis of September 30, 2015 sluicing experiment
1:20 Operational plan for phase II
1:40 General discussion and concluding remarks  

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Professor Bob Newton and students Heather Upin ’16 and Emma Harnisch ’18 take sediment samples while working on the R/V Silty.

 

 

Jeffrey Sachs: an Economist himself

18 Apr

I’d heard it all before; sustainable development is the only future for an increasingly global society, steeping in a burning cocktail of social injustices, stark economic inequalities and environmental degradation. I have been privileged to hear countless environmentalists, scholars, and activists preach the importance as well as the challenges of sustainable development over the past few years.

The big difference between that and Jeffrey Sachs’ April 8th evening lecture on Sustainable Development at Smith College was that I was hearing about it from an economist. And not just any economist. Sachs is a world-renowned economist who serves as a senior adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals. He is Director of the Earth Institute, and Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Sachs

Sachs led a full auditorium of captivated students, community members, and professors through the ins and outs of sustainable development, the rise of capitalism, and poverty. He finished the lecture with harrowing statistics and evidence describing the environmental crises we are faced with as a result of capitalism’s insatiable, unsustainable appetite.

What intrigued me the most about the lecture were his concluding slides detailing the responsibilities of the “moral” university. The role of the university in sustainable development is special, critical, and enormous in helping to create a future for the billions of people on the planet. Education in sustainable development, research and design of sustainable development systems, organizing social outreach to all stakeholders, and fostering and protecting a moral outlook are some of the responsibilities outlined by Sachs at the tail end of his lecture.

Craning my neck, I tried to gauge the President’s reaction to this slide. After all, administrative offices, classes, and student groups like Divest Smith College have been preaching these same principles for years now. Their biggest hurdle in seeing any action from the College has been economic; any mention of the changes needed to become a more sustainable institution generally leads to hysteria about the billion dollar endowment, so critical to Smith College. And standing on the stage in Weinstein Auditorium was someone ready and willing to make the jump over the hurdle and onto the right side of history; an economist himself.

-Lily Carlisle-Reske is a sophomore at Smith College from Alexandria, Virginia. She is studying environmental science and policy with a concentration in sustainable food and Italian. When she is not working she is probably in the kitchen stirring a pot of soup and baking bread. #veganchef

Leadership*- Day 3

9 Jan

Wednesday was our final day together in the environmental leadership workshop. We were happy to sit back and hear from seven Five College alumnae who are leaders of one kind or another in the environmental field, about their career paths, about the kind of work they do, and about what keeps them coming back for more day after day, despite (or because of) the challenges they face in doing their work. I think we all left inspired and reassured, with new ideas to consider.

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The day wrapped up with the promised lecture by someone many consider an environmental hero: Denis Hayes.  It was exciting to see the Neilson Browsing Room fill up with students, faculty, staff, and members of our larger local community, eager to hear from someone who has accomplished so much and who continues to provide inspiration. 

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It was a great three days, and students are already asking about whether we will offer a similar workshop next year! We’ll keep you posted…

IMG_2037                                 Leaving MacLeish

-Joanne Benkley, CEEDS

Arctic Blast

27 Dec

  “Arctic Blast” (Annie and the Natural Wonder Band)

Margaret Williams, managing director of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Arctic Field Program, gave a presentation last month in which she emphasized the need for “approach stewardship.” Due to the fact that the Arctic is a site of rapid and accelerating change, interventions are now required that not only address present concerns, but also anticipate needs of the future. One positive note is that technological progress has been made in the area of assessment; tools that model different scenarios of ecological change have been developed which aid scientists and policy makers in addressing approaching challenges. On a more complex note, the overall catalyst for the majority of problems is climate change.

Although global warming affects the entire Arctic ecosystem, I think it is appropriate that the polar bear serves as an icon for this crisis, given that sea ice is literally melting under his or her feet. Additionally, the image of a powerful creature in such a precarious position, faced with the prospect of losing its “island in the storm” is compelling. Furthermore, anthropogenic sources play a role in the polar bear’s plight; oil and gas drilling as well as Arctic shipping contribute greatly to escalating polar cap, permafrost, and glacier melt. It strikes me as unfortunate, especially for indigenous people whose survival and way of life is increasingly threatened, that increased ice melt translates into easier access to fragile areas for shipping companies and oil and gas companies.

Fortunately, however, I am encouraged by the bold stance Margaret took in a WWF statement dated September 20, 2013, in which she asserts “Global climate emissions must be reduced and the surge in polar shipping must be accompanied by strong, international safety and environmental safeguards. Waiting until the next disastrous Arctic spill is simply not an option.” I could not agree more and I hope that others who feel the same, regardless of their age, will let policy makers know their concerns.
  “Save the Seas” (Annie and the Natural Wonder Band)

– Ann Grilli, AC
Ann is a first year Ada Comstock Scholar and environmental science and policy major. A New York native, Ann now lives in Hadley, MA. Before coming to Smith, Ann and her husband formed Annie and the Natural Wonder Band and have traveled around the world, using their music to teach children about the natural world. They performed “Save the Seas” with a children’s choir from Maryland at the United Nations as part of an international children’s contest focusing on preserving the oceans.

Marine plastic pollution: ENV 100 students are asked, “How bad is it?”

23 Dec

In his ENV 100 presentation “Plastic in Our Oceans: How Bad Is It,” microbial ecologist Erik Zettler outlined the realities of marine plastic pollution. Zettler first set out to debunk three pervasive myths regarding plastic and the world’s growing marine “garbage patches”:

MYTH 1: Earth’s oceans are filled with enormous, swirling islands of plastic debris. These garbage patches are visible from space.
REALITY: Marine garbage patches mostly look like pristine ocean – until you drag a net through them. Even then, the majority of the plastic fragments captured are less than 1 cm in size.

MYTH 2: Plastic is everywhere in the ocean.
REALITY: Plastic debris moves with ocean currents and converges in gyres – large systems of rotating currents. These gyres become the locations of garbage patches, such as those found in the Pacific, North Atlantic, and Indian Oceans.

MYTH 3: Plastic does not biodegrade.
REALITY: Plastics do break down eventually – though once they have entered the environment, they often persist much longer than we would hope for them to.

Zettler’s objective was not to minimize the severity of the marine plastic pollution problem. Nor was it to imply that action is not urgently needed. It was simply to provide a more scientific and less sensationalized perspective on the issue.

Nevertheless, I was moved by his initial question: “How bad is it?” In trying to answer this question, I was reminded that it was not my studies in environmental science that first brought the problem of plastic to my attention – it was my interest in archaeology.

Archaeologists examine the facts of our material reality – the picture that is painted by the physical record we leave behind. These material remains are often what we leave behind intentionally: our refuse, detritus, trash, garbage. The objects we discard speak volumes about the individual lives we lead. And when our garbage is examined on a community or cultural scale, larger patterns of human behavior and belief become visible.

At the urging of my archaeology professor, I attended a presentation last year on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the birds of Midway Atoll. This experience prompted me to ask myself: what picture is my own society painting? What do we see when we look at our own trash? And what would someone from the distant future, the distant past, or another planet entirely think of our modern civilization if they were to examine our refuse?

What sense would they make of this, if they were to uncover such a thing buried under thousands of years worth of strata:

Photographer Chris Jordan's series <em>Midway: Message from the Gyre</em> documents the albatross population of Midway Atoll, whose 'nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.' (http://www.chrisjordan.com)Photographer Chris Jordan’s series “Midway: Message from the Gyre” documents the albatross population of Midway Atoll, whose ‘nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.’ (http://www.chrisjordan.com)

How bad is it? There might not be giant, solid masses of plastic debris choking our oceans. This plastic might not be immortal, and it might not be everywhere. Nevertheless: I would say, definitively, it is not a pretty picture that we are painting. Our current patterns of behavior – and the belief systems that underlie them – urgently need to be reevaluated.

– Jacqueline Maasch, ’15

Jacqueline is an anthropology major, environmental science & policy minor, and sustainable food concentrator. This spring she will be studying in Costa Rica with the School for Field Studies.

Reflecting on transboundary environmental issues

19 Dec

A response to Clive Lipchin’s ENV 100 presentation, “Transboundary Decentralized Waste Water Management in the Middle East”

Nature knows no borders, according to Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. This dictum was the basis of Clive Lipchin’s lecture on waste water management in the Middle East, as presented to ENV 100 students this fall. Lipchin framed the region’s transboundary water issues as complex environmental, social, economic, and political problems, the solutions to which necessarily involve both science and diplomacy. As director of the Arava Institute’s Center for Transboundary Water Management, he explained the ecological factors at play, the overarching political context, and the efforts being made (and not being made) by various stakeholders. In addition to stressing the need for intergovernmental cooperation in water resources management, Lipchin presented promising approaches to solving waste water issues in Palestine and Israel.

Arava Institute students monitoring the Be'er Sheva stream, which carries sewage and industrial pollution from Palestine into Israel. For legal reasons, Israel can only partially treat this contaminated water before returning it to the stream. (http://arava.org/)Arava Institute students monitoring the Be’er Sheva stream, which carries sewage and industrial pollution from Palestine into Israel. For legal reasons, Israel can only partially treat this contaminated water before returning it to the stream. (http://arava.org/)

In Environmental Science & Policy Integration I, we often discuss the transboundary nature of environmental issues. Transboundary externalities are present when activities that occur within the jurisdiction of one politically-defined region (such as a state or nation) produce results that affect the environment or people in other regions. Many of the world’s greatest environmental and human health disasters have been transboundary in nature, such as the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union, which spread nuclear pollution over much of Europe and western Asia. Acid rain in the northeastern United States is a close-to-home example of a transboundary externality, as the chemical pollutants that cause it are largely produced by industrial activities that take place outside the region.

While we are all familiar with a handful of high-profile transboundary issues, it is important to note that a great many environmental issues produce transboundary externalities. Why is this the case? Because nature does indeed know no borders. The boundary lines imposed by human activities are artificial and inconsequential to the complex ecosystems we inhabit. These are ecosystems governed by geophysical and biological processes, not by politics. The water carrying industrial pollution and human waste across state lines is not cognizant of these borders in its journey through the hydrologic cycle. Only we are.

Yet political boundaries are of great consequence in the human world. We fight wars over them. We carry special documents that communicate which borders we can cross and which we have no business crossing. We spend enormous sums to barricade our borders from illegal entry. Meanwhile, the population contained within the political boundaries of a region – a nation for instance – might adhere to culturally-specific beliefs, values, and laws; their governments and economies might be wealthy and established, or in debt and unstable; and their natural resources might be abundant and well stewarded, or over-burdened and depleted. At the same time, a neighboring region may live under the exact opposite conditions. This is to say that while neighboring ecosystems might be interdependent, and things might flow through them naturally and harmoniously, quite the opposite can be true of neighboring human populations. They might clash, be at odds, have conflicting needs or goals, have disparate capacities to meet environmental challenges, or struggle to come to agreements.

This reality in large part defines Israeli-Palestinian water resources management. Palestine has a very limited capacity for dealing with waste water – though like any nation, it is continually producing it. As a result, the vast majority of Palestinian waste water is either stored in improperly constructed septic tanks or flows directly into the environment. Due to the configuration of the landscape, much of the waste that enters surface water in Palestine flows into Israel. An affluent nation, Israel (which enjoys the highest standard of living in the Middle East) maintains a more extensive infrastructure than does Palestine, and so is able to treat some of this waste water once it enters its borders. Though Israel taxes Palestine for the treatment of this waste water, Palestine does not receive any benefits from the treatment process, such as the ability to reuse treated water (which is crucial in a chronically water scarce region). In other words, Palestine’s lack of infrastructure and the transboundary nature of this issue leads Israel to take unilateral actions, leaving Palestine taxed and without benefits. Underlying this situation are incredibly complex and contentious issues of national recognition, sovereignty, and land rights – issues which often preclude rational planning for improved infrastructure.

While Lipchin acknowledges that political tensions often stalemate progress in improving the Israeli-Palestinian water situation, he does name one promising approach. Given that the current political reality does not allow for the improvement of centralized infrastructure, some researchers have advocated a decentralized approach to waste water treatment. One decentralized treatment method being explored is the use of greywater filtration systems in private homes. These mimic marsh environments – nature’s great water filtration systems – and produce water that can be reused by the household, namely for irrigation. I have seen a system somewhat like this at the UMass extension turf station, which I visited with my horticulture class last year. I believe they were testing the effectiveness of the system, and possibly which grass species lent themselves best to water filtration. At the time I was struck by how brilliant nature is. I was also impressed by the idea that by approximating what nature does so well, we might solve massive development issues.

Greywater lies on a spectrum between potable water and blackwater (sewage). Though often discarded, it can be effectively recycled and reused by households for various purposes, including irrigation. (http://greenletter.org)Greywater lies on a spectrum between potable water and blackwater (sewage). Though often discarded, it can be effectively recycled and reused by households for various purposes, including irrigation. (http://greenletter.org)

However, in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian water issue, bringing the genius of nature into everyone’s backyard (e.g. in the form of a greywater treatment system) is unfortunately not the cure-all. Solutions like this still cost money that many people do not have. Overcoming the obstacles that divide stakeholders (whether they be political tensions or something else) will still be pivotal in resolving the transboundary water issues specific to the Middle East.

– Jacqueline Maasch, ’15

Jacqueline is an anthropology major, environmental science & policy minor, and sustainable food concentrator. This spring she will be studying in Costa Rica with the School for Field Studies.

Becoming Makers: Living From the Waste Stream

16 Dec

The nature of today’s society in America is very much based around consumerism. The ubiquity of advertisements — on billboards, on television, on the radio, on the internet, in magazines and newspapers, etc. — makes it clear that, as Wendy Tremayne put it, “the entire world is for sale.” Consumerism is deeply imbedded in the systems that run our country and the cultural expectations that give a commonly accepted definition of success. In these cases and so many others money drives the decisions that affect how our country is run and the vision we have for how we fit into this American life. The “American dream” of today is much the same as it was in past generations: a person’s success is measured by how much money they can earn, and, indirectly, what they can afford to buy.

As a student studying studio art, I can’t help but think of a visual representation of consumerism that struck me. The Beehive Design Collective of Machias, Maine combines activism with art, using intricate posters as teaching tools to spread awareness about various issues. In one of their newest posters, The True Cost of Coal[1] (pictured below), where they explore the causes and painful realities of mountaintop removal, consumerism is a key factor in the demand for coal. The image shows an ominous black hole, no doubt symbolizing climate change, with dollar signs from big banks feeding the swirling clouds. Beneath, among other things, is a big mall selling goods that are designed to appear “green”, but in reality are still creating mass amounts of waste, polluting the land, and creating a high demand for coal. The society we live in – one that establishes the expectation that living cannot occur without buying – is beneficial to no one except manufacturers. Those who manufacture goods in an unsustainable way are contributing to a problem that affects everyone on earth, regardless of financial standing: climate change.

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Stepping away from the big picture and into the shoes of an American consumer, it often seems like buying is the only option, whether it be for food, clothing, shelter, and other necessities. Bringing the voice of experience, Wendy Tremayne was able to affirm that living off-grid and from “waste” primarily is possible. Her experiences with remaking clothes, growing food, creating medicines from readily available plants, and creating other innovative alternatives to buying things were very inspiring to hear. The kinds of necessary and useful goods and gadgets Wendy and her partner were able to produce were extraordinary. Until I was able to glimpse into their life and how they built it, I hadn’t been able to picture a life that succeeded in being truly sustainable without feeding into consumer culture.

One of the most accessible projects Wendy had organized was a clothing swap, free and open to the public. I have organized clothing swaps with my friends in the past, mostly for the sake of saving money while getting rid of old clothes. What I had never realized is that in the United States only 15% of clothing is donated.[2] This is shocking when we take into account that 95% of textiles can be recycled. 85% of clothing is thrown into the landfill, which comes to be about 21 billion pounds. In France, however, a mere 8% of clothing ends up in the landfill. This is the impact of charity organizations that collect and re-sell clothing as well as the French government, which passed a law in 2008 requiring retailers to provide an alternative to throwing old products into the waste stream.[3] This is one of many ways we can reduce waste drastically, save money, and take back power from major manufacturers.

The effects consumerism has on our society and our environment are numerous and serious. Continuously buying and disposing of resources perpetuates a system of instability and waste. If we can find a way to consume only what we create, and create only from the consumed, we can live a truly sustainable life. This theme was demonstrated by William McDonough in his 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking The Way We Make Things.[4] In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough promotes the idea of the “upcycle”: seeking a life of abundance by manufacturing in ways that improve the environment. This vision of an abundant, sustainable life is what led Wendy to seek such a life. Feeding into the system of consumerism is inevitable only if you refuse to question what it means to be a consumer and a creator.

-Claire Horne, ’17

Claire is an undeclared First year interested in pursuing a major in Studio Art. She was born in Austin, Texas, but grew up in Appleton, Maine.


[1] Full size image available at http://beehivecollective.org/beehive_poster/the-true-cost-of-coal/The True Cost of Coal. Digital image. Beehive Design Collective. N.p., n.d. Web.

[2] “Miller Waste Mills, Inc.” Miller Waste Mills Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2013

[3] Kamila. “France Reigns Supreme in the Recycling of Textiles.” Magnifeco.com. Magnifeco: The Digital Source For Eco-fashion and Sustainable Living, 18 May 2013. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

There’s an App for That…

1 Dec

In my Enviroment and Sustainability: Notes from the Field course on October 21, a speaker posed the question, “Do you believe in benevolent capitalism?” My initial reaction to this question was: absolutely not. But as I listened to what Sheri Flies, assistant general merchandise mangager of Costco had to say during her talk, I became more convinced that it may be possible to attain such a goal if the ethics and integrity of a company’s mission statement is matched by management whose goal is not only profit, but also sustaining our environments and communities. The idea that a company would be as invested in bettering communities through ethical employment practices as they would be in their own profit, is quite groundbreaking. It is common to hear of large conglomorations that ignore the strains their companies put on the environment and people who work to supply their products.  The idea of benevolent capitalism is something that most people would want to support, however, the time and research it would take one person to ensure the products they purchase are being aquired without harming the environment, without exploiting individuals and communities, in addition to respecting the laws of the other countries that supply the ingredients they use—would be a task larger than the average person could even take on.  Through a bit of research, I have found an application that appears to fill this very need.  The buycott application (http://www.buycott.com/) is an app you can load onto your mobile phone or tablet device; after identifying which campaigns you support, when you search for a product, the app will cross-check to see how the company compares to the campaigns you are passionate about. 
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For example, if a company uses gmos in their cereal and does not want gmos labeled, the app will tell you that the company not only supported, but funded the bill opposing gmo labeling. While this app is not perfect, mainly because information changes very quickly, it is still an easy to use tool for consumers looking to support companies that match their ethical guidelines—which is another step in the right direction towards benevolent capitalism.

Rachel Moyer ‘15

Rachel is an Ada Comstock Scholar, American Studies major and Study of Women and Gender minor. Originally from Seattle, WA, Rachel intends to pursue a career in journalism. She lives off-campus with her three cats.

How Real Pickles Will Guide My Farm

25 Nov

Real Pickles in Greenfield, MA, has developed a sustainable business model that will guide my own farm business in the future. The owner, Dan Rosenberg, decided to make every effort to develop a business that serves his community and will benefit their health as well as the health of the planet. He decided first to focus on developing his business to be as energy efficient as possible before he focused on introducing renewable energy. In this way, Rosenberg was able to make his energy needs much lower than if he had simply emphasized using renewable energy. Because of this, Rosenberg’s operation uses only 1.5 times the average kilowatt-hour intact of average American household and he produces 100 percent of his energy from solar panels. Rosenberg emphasized the important shift from buying local to investing local. It is not enough to simply buy a few products locally while still investing in destructive companies that undermine local businesses.

real picklesHeaderSKINNYsq930                                From the Real Pickles website: realpickles.com

Dan’s ENV 100 lecture earlier this Fall helped me realize that local and organic farming and food production does not necessitate mostly negative actions. My friends Hilly and Lincoln own a farm in Worthington, MA, where they operate a whole life CSA. They bake bread and granola, slaughter cows and goats and pigs and grow a multitude of fruits and vegetables. This manner of farming attracts me as being extremely beneficial to the community that surrounds me. Hilly and Lincoln seek to integrate their neighbors into their operation by offering sweat equity to pay for part of a farm share and by having weekly Shabbat dinners that help strengthen relationships. Rosenberg also emphasized how he can impact his community in positive ways by changing his company to a worker-owned cooperative and by seeking local individual investors. Both businesses are small enough to recognize the importance of labor and animal health safety. While these techniques to strengthen community and ensure health and safety seem small, forgetting them leads to the impersonal companies that do not value worker, animal, or customer health and safety, focusing purely on profit margins.

I recently had a conversation with Jeffery Scott, the Director of Social Enterprise Development for Heifer International, about the importance of small community building acts. Scott currently leads Heifer’s Seeds of Change Initiative in Southern Appalachia, helping farmers who lost their livelihood when the tobacco monocrop left the area. Seeds of Change provides these farmers with capital, markets and literal seeds to diversify their farms. Scott has also been working to regain previously agricultural lands that were sold to developers. My main concern that I brought up to Scott was the apparent apathy among many young people who seem either unaware or uninterested in finding out more about ways to better the environment and society. Scott’s simple answer to spark their interest was “through their bellies.” I have always felt that food was the most important aspect of my own life and have relished each time I am able to share food that I have grown or made with others as a way to express my love. Scott’s suggestion connects what I have been doing for years with my frustration about how to motivate my peers to invest in their future. It is not possible to convince others with words alone, but maybe by cooking healthy, delicious, local, and organic food for them, like Dan Rosenberg does at Real Pickles, I can convince young people that this way of life is better for them and our planet.

-Julia Graham, ’16

Julia is a prospective Environmental Science and Policy major and a Sustainable Food Concentrator. She loves to grow tomatoes and garlic. Julia lives in Duckett House and is happy to be at Smith as a transfer after having taken a year off to work on two organic farms in New England.

The Good Life Lab: A powerful message on life, stuff, and true sustainability

7 Oct

In late September, students at Smith College were blessed with a lesson in the environmental, physical, and emotional impacts of stuff, and our insatiable desire for more of it. Wendy Tremayne, author of The Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living, and her partner, Mikey Sklar, gave an hour and a half long talk about their adventure from one extreme lifestyle to another, and the incredible lessons that we can all learn from their change. In 2006, they both left their high profile, high stress, and highly taxing careers in marketing and on Wall Street, sold (almost) everything, and bought a piece of land in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Their goals were to decommodify (commodify: treat as a commodity, commercialization) their lives, reconnect with nature, use their skills (and acquire more) to make what they need rather than buy it, and live an abundant life.

They succeeded phenomenally. In a couple of years, they had built a sustainable home, were growing about 50% of their food (and were making just about all of it), had learned dozens of new skills, and were living a more relaxed, interesting, secure, exciting, and abundant life then before – on under 30,000 dollars a year. The Good Life Lab includes everything from lessons on how staggeringly unsustainable the current “ideal lifestyle” is to step by step directions on how to make your own biofuel. It serves as both an exciting story to spark interest and inspire a new way of looking at the world, as well as a guidebook on how to embark on a making versus buying lifestyle.

   

One of the most inspiring things I took away from this talk (and perusal of the book afterwards) is how irrevocably intermingled human sustainability is with the sustainability of the earth. When Wendy and Mikey decided to dive in head first and live a decommodified life, they were not only switching to a much greener way of life with a much smaller carbon footprint, but they were allowing their own lifestyle to be just as sustainable and kind on a personal level. In a developed world that is afflicted with all kinds of chronic illnesses, cancers, anxieties, loneliness, and more, yet full of items to buy to supposedly fill those holes, it is no wonder that many people feel rushed, stressed, and uneasy. As the planet suffers from our continual need of commodified goods and an ever-growing GDP, we are also suffering. As Wendy said in an interview ”We go to work to earn money to buy back the world that we already own”, and this work, which for many people is both stressful and draining, makes it necessary to purchase instead of create our livelihood.

One of the most reassuring stories that Wendy had to tell was that of her experience during the market crash in 2008. She and Mikey moved out of New York City and took their money out of the stock market (which everyone was telling them was a terrible idea) right before the crash. They were fully entrenched in the decommodified life by the time the severe repercussions hit a most of the nation. As it turns out, they were not affected at all by the economic downturn, nor were the rest of their neighbors living a similar lifestyle. Life in Truth or Consequences, with a strong local economy that was largely trade based, continued on normally. When living outside of the “system”, YOU determine your well-being and livelihood,  not the businesses on Wall Street. What is more secure than that?

I recommend Wendy’s book to anyone who feels as if they are craving a change in their day-to-day hum drums of life (or anyone who would like to learn how to fashion a fire breathing  trampoline). This book is a message to remember ourselves, our skills, what is truly important to us, and how we want to experience our short time on this earth. It is a message to take care of the planet while taking care of ourselves. If that is not the definition of true sustainability, I’m not sure what is.

-Savannah Holden, ’16

Savannah Holden is a sophomore and prospective Government major, economics minor, and sustainable food concentrator. She is loving her new job as a CEEDS intern, and tries to spend as much time as possible reading, cooking, being active outside- all while figuring out how to travel more!