Sunday, October 28, 2018

Privilege.

**Disclaimer** This isn't the easiest subject to write about. This is strictly personal. I accept feedback and constructive criticism. I'm not pointing any fingers, just trying to point out what I see. 

Written October 6th, 2018:
I have given many hours of thought to this topic in the last few days, though the essence of it has followed me since before I became aware of my own privilege—which honestly has only been in the last decade.
I’m writing this from a truck where I was attempting to take a nap before work. I slept in the back of a van last night, and had a dream that a man was peeking into the van in the middle of the night and I tried to hide from him to avoid the unimaginable. In several weeks I haven’t slept in the same place for more than three consecutive nights.
Yesterday all these thoughts formed into a direction... I called my grandfather to ask about his health- he offered me a couple hundred dollars to pay my graduate school application fees. This is Privilege, I thought.
Just hours later, on the phone with a good friend, I’m listening to their frustrations at not having the extra $750 to pay their reduced lawyer fees in an attempt to gain custody of their own children. This is poverty, I feel. Despite being told I’m getting a check for several hundred dollars, I feel helpless to help their position.
Last night, at the end of a sporadic 12 hour day of computer work, meetings, organizing, etc, I’m with a co-worker in a work truck at a grocery store.  A gray-haired leather-skinned man with a strong Spanish accent waits outside the car door for us to finish our conversation, before launching into his request for money for a bus fare, etc. etc. Coming to the end of my emotional roller coaster for the day, I told him firmly that I was at trying to end my work day, and had enough charities on my mind at the moment. Immediately, I felt guilty. I have seen friends struggling with addiction-- living off of the dollar bills they find in their apartment until the next paycheck come in-- offer kindness, food and even money to people in similar situations. Here I am, (despite not having a job after this month) with a car, and a savings account—which is surprisingly more than so many people in this country—and I’m a bitch to someone struggling to get by.
This morning I went on a walk with an empowered young woman with no family to offer her hundreds of dollars for graduate school. She has her own apartment, and a job and is going to school, but doesn’t have much in the way of savings. She has benefited (if you can call it that) some certain financial state requirements for kids taken from their families, but not in a way that eases the emotional burden of such. She is one example of this growing population of people just trying to get by, who will continue trying to find more jobs and seek more government assistance to pay the rent for the older generations who feel entitled to rob the youth. 
After our walk, I went to get some coffee at my favorite coffee shop, full of gray-haired customers and hipsters alike. After spending $8 on coffee and granola and using their free wifi, I passed a homeless man on my way to the car. Most of his speech was incoherent, but he assumed I had a job, denied asking for money but suggested that I smoke (implying I give him a cigarette), then as I walked away said he didn’t want to date me… [incoherent]…I hope you have a great day …[incoherent with increasingly negative tone]. I thought, as I walked toward the truck I’m typing this in, of the commonly uttered statement by white middle class and working class people, as a dismissal for giving to the poor and underprivileged: “I’ve worked hard for my money. I’ve earned this, etc…” Whew. What a statement. Is being born a white cis male or female and getting the management job you apply for, and then, yes, working 60 hours a week getting your team up to speed to accomplish important tasks for the world, “working hard?” Did you work any harder than the college student who spends 5 hours a day, 6 days a week teaching 30 kids in childcare? Or a woman born of Mexican-immigrant parents who works a night job as a janitor and a day job making tortillas and in the meantime is teaching herself English. Why are you entitled to 3x her salary? Because you worked harder? Because you had someone help you pay for college?...
Perhaps none of these thoughts are new to you as they are to me. My own privilege in this world is just finally clicking. I know that a lot of the people reading this might defend their behaviors with a “you can’t help the whole world” sort of statement, and that’s just where you are. I know I can’t help the whole world, but I can certainly figure out my place in this one. I may have the privilege to be an out-of-debt, college educated straight woman, but I can commit to sharing my meager means with those who need it more than I do. And where I can’t give with money, I can give in time. In the time it takes to get a high score in Bejeweled, or whatever, I could volunteer at any number of organizations...

In my assessment of our American right now, there is a lot of privilege. At least amongst the types of people browsing facebook every day and reading my blog. And there’s also a lot of poverty. The privileged bunch tend to have the opportunity to ignore certain realities of the challenges of rising rent prices, drug addiction, the daily impacts of climate change, etc. Then, even amongst my friends, there are people who don't have financial support from their families or even emotional support from their families. I have one friend who grew up from a middle class family that stopped talking to him when he had his first breakdown that resulted in him being diagnosed with manic depression, and now he's in a hospital psych ward in Oregon, surrounded only by other homeless friends as family. 
However my brain is wired to work, I cannot fathom how anyone can ignore these situations, in a growing globalist society, and live in ignorant bliss in their own communities. Aside from the issues and wars and injustices of the whole world, even in your own communities, there is poverty, there is pain and there is a suffering that we all could work to heal. I just. Don’t. understand. the apathy.
Here’s an idea, for example. How many middle-upper-class families do you know, that have a spare room in their house for when their adult-child comes to visit (or something similar)? How many nights do those nicely adorned beds in high-count thread-sheets collect dust? If every middle class family got to know and adopted a homeless person, showed them the compassion and connected them with the resources necessary to help them get on their feet, that could mean millions of people assimilating back into society… Obvious there are challenges with this model, but it's a thought/start. 
I also feel a little bad, harping on working class folks, and certainly, don’t want to discredit their work and families and problems. For example—in the last three-ish years: I have had three serious partners, the love of my life passed away, I took my first serious full-time job with benefits, I have helped fight custody battles, blah blah blah… Despite considering myself a pretty strong woman, I have been through many challenging and defeating things in the last few years… and yet, now as I come to the end of my full-time job, I eagerly await the opportunity to slow down and process. What a privilege! To think that I’m exhausted from all the normal things that happen in life and yet I'm relatively immune to the spiral of problems that keep many oppressed and in poverty… is quite the privilege.

...
I have spent the last week driving around the Pacific Northwest, hearing hard-working people with no means to invest talk about great ideas that will never be supported. As we search for a parcel of land to hatch our own dream, I'm met by constant examples of how a small number of people are exploiting the rest of us to make themselves richer, for what? More yahts? 

So what does all this matter? The 1% is taking over the world, and we’re all being funneled around like sheep (most of us blissfully ignorant of our situations) towards a war that will likely eradicate at least 40% of the least-wealthy populations in our country, if not the globe... But I guess I feel like recognizing our place of privilege amongst all that, is the least we can do. …

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I Quit




On Tuesday I facilitated my 100th expedition. 

One month ago I moved out of my house-- the most stable living situation I've had since living at home. Weeks before that, I had carefully crafted an e-mail to my boss (edited to remove my emotions, thank you, David) stating my desire to end my employment with this organization.

After 7 summers, six seasons, and three full years, I'm resigning from the work I once felt was worthy of all my energy. I'm leaving the responsibility of taking care of others' children and 27 acres, and the anxiety and guilt of working at a non-profit, and focusing instead on myself and family. 

This was perhaps the most difficult decision I've ever had to make, just a few hairs above taking this job in the first place. By ending my role in this position, I'm ending endless bragging rights, opportunities to work in the sunshine, and shutting the door to an amazing community of dozens of like-minded people. To many still in the role, this decision was hard to fathom. What's gained by me moving out of my house and ending a job I've labored over for years, is acknowledging a need for a reset. And the world has shown me several reminders of the importance of this decision as of late: 



Image may contain: 2 people, text

To be clear-- I think I'm on a generational straddle between making long-term career commitments, and the increasingly flippant idea that self-care outranks community-care, and commitments can be broken. I have been loyal to this organization and it's community to the point of my own self-destruction...and after much consultation with friends, lawyers and a therapist, I've decided it's time to go. 


http://www.collegehumor.com/post/7057608/the-problem-with-doing-what-you-love-for-a-living

There's so much I Could say about the difficulty in the decisions I've made in the last few weeks, or months... but one way to summarize is this: 
"Find what you love, and let it consume you" is tattooed on my left hand. It's a daily reminder of the way I live and love-- by diving in deep. 
Remember the scene in Matilda in which the kid has to eat the entire chocolate cake in front of everyone? I love chocolate cake. But eating one piece of it leaves me unsatisfied. All I can think about it getting to eat cake again. So, my style is to plunge in, and eat the whole damn cake, or as much as I can until I'm so sick of cake that I never want it again. For better, or worse--that's what I did with my first fiancé, and that's what I've done with this job. 
I got a taste of this new exotic flavor. It's family, it's support and comfort, and I'm gonna dive in.

Monday, August 27, 2018

There's No Place like Home

When I worked in California, before moving to New Mexico full time, we taught the students the basic needs of all species to ensure their survival as an individual, and a species:

FWARPS. Food, water, air, reproduction, protection, space.
It was fun working through the acronym from their 12 year old brains. Of course they never guessed Reproduction, and would giggle when I said it. They would guess the "S" stood for shelter, which I would lump under protection. But the final word, "space" really got them. I liked to teach this in the San Bernardino NF, next to a thick stand of hundreds of Ponderosa or Jeffery pine that were only about 6 inches in diameter with a foot on average between them. Next, I would take them to the strand and tell them about the unicorn sightings and explain that if they hug a tree and make a wish, it would come true, and that if they saw a unicorn they couldn't ever tell anyone... but this post is about space, not unicorns.

Over the years, I've identified my growing need for "space". In a recent appointment with my therapist, I was illustrating my own basic needs, and amongst "friends" and "nature" was space: both internal and external, illustrated by me in a little treehouse, with nature all around.

On a recent trip with a group of senior citizens, an older man named George asked where I was from. "I grew up in Texas, but now I live in Albuquerque", is one stock response that glosses over my transient period. "Oh, how long you been there?" he asked. "4.5 years," I bragged, "but the previous 5 years I had lived in 16 different places." "Oh wow. Where to next...?" he inquired. I smiled.
Although he and most of the crowd had been living in Albuquerque since the 80's, all transplanted from the East Coast or some far away place with an entirely different climate, he somehow recognized that my time in this city was coming to an end. 


The view from my old porch
When I ended my season of teaching in California, I moved to the space from which I am typing this. A small one-bedroom casita with modern fridgedaire appliances in a 27-acre park with apple trees, grapevines and lots of space. Friends and family have teased that I found my retirement job a little early. This space has been my Home, and I mean that in the deepest comforts of the word. On stressful days, I've walked from my front door to the pecan orchard and watched the ducks bathing in the irrigated grove. I've seen baby geese and blooming roses along the trails. I've had to say things like "please don't move your furniture into the sunflowers," and "Sorry sir, you can't use your metal detector here" and been offered a guinea hen, and told that I'm the Poop Fairy. In addition to being a constantly amusing albeit public place to live, this home has also been my safe place through the ups and downs of getting a great job, and losing one, and boyfriends coming in and out of my life, and this world. 



Kitchen/living room
 These walls have seen several shades of love, as I've shared them with my first fiancee, my game-warden-bound best friend and her adorable dog Boone, a work friend and her dog and occasionally her boyfriend, my soul-mate who met an untimely fate, and a couple of years with this wild man I'm looking forward to spending my life with. Under this roof, I grew and practiced different kinds of love. 
These walls have shared the laughter of long nights of rants and giggles. The floors show stains of memories from Amil squeezing peaches to distill into peach liquor, and the walls show a few knuckle dents from when things were really hard to take.


There are desert and NM skies like these elsewhere.

Despite all my fond memories of this fishbowl, I may have worn out my welcome. Two friends recently told me, in their own words, that... In life, when you feel like you it's time to do something different, you should really listen to that. I had held onto this space, despite my exhaustion of opening and closing the gates every day, sleeping with my phone on in case I don't hear the alarm, having to find someone to live-in my house and do my jobs for every night I didn't stay there, and the utter lack of privacy of living in the middle of a parking lot. I held on to the perks of my slice of nature in the city, and the pride of the reputation I have built in my Home. But I finally realized this summer, that there are other Homes. We found a beautiful place to rent in Valdez, NM, along a stream in a verdant canyon under the highest mountain in the state. The neighbors are like minded, the dog can roam free, and there is easy access to the Carson NF. 


Farewell, sweet little abode. 


On the day that I moved all my stuff up, I saw a bus boy watering the plants outside with the leftover water glasses from the table; we donated $10 to the local fire department and were told in exchange "thanks! We'll save you first" in all sincerity; and we discovered that the local "post office" is just a stand of P.O. Boxes. I think this place is going to be a good fit for a while. I can definitely start to feel like this is Home
[Check out the song Lost Boy on the link, can you hear me on the back-up vocals? 

---- Just for fun: -------

The 3 stages of packing up your shit.
1) I am the definition of simplicity!
During this phase, you throw out everything you touch, thinking about how good you're going to feel packing the three little boxes into your car when it's time to move. You start with biggest stuff you've been threatening to get rid of, then work your way to the junk drawers and nooks of nothing you've been holding on to since college. You create piles of questionable materials like anything electronic and dead pens...wondering where you can recycle such things.
2) I might need this, later...
About halfway through the purge, you start thinking about your life in the next situation. What if it doesn't exactly work out. What if every Salvation Army and Goodwill across the country suddenly close and you can't ever get that rug/hat/jewelry stand/ boot scraper back...
3) To sleep, or to pack, that is the question: 
Finally, you realize that it will take as many years to sort through everything as it did to accumulate it. You put everything left in boxes, take the final three loads to goodwill, and just move it to the next place, getting rid of more stuff there as it doesn't quite fit with your new floor plan. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Life is Hard

Life is hard, sometimes.
And they don't prepare you for it.

As we grow up we learn to identify animals, make cupcakes, and analyze literature.
We're barely taught nutrition and how to balance checkbooks. The math we're taught is generally irrelevant, and no one can tell us when we're going to use it. We're not taught the importance of moving our bodies, in schools, but instead forced to sit still and attempt to pay attention.
I went to a good school. I learned the basics of American History, I read a lot of good books, I went to college, I took a lot of jobs post-grad that perpetuated my learning of subjects, and life, and it wasn't until then, until now, that I realized why adults are so grumpy. :)
Adulting Life is hard.
There's trust. Which no one in the world can tell you if you're doing right or wrong. Sometimes people will tell you if they can't trust you, and even less often how to fix it. But more times, you'll think you can trust someone, only to realize, maybe several times, that you are wrong...

There's greed. A simple enough thing when Adam is hoarding the oreos at recess and not sharing... but a growing complicated thing that makes people act less like animals and more like devils, intentionally causing ruin to their own species...for what...? power? yachts? I still don't understand.

There's hunger. I was really affected by Richard Wright's book Black Boy in high school. He had a powerful way of describing hunger, not only as a crippling longing for food and sustenance, but also an inner desire to do, to be, to create.

There's passion similarly. Which they don't teach you about. You just seem to have it or you don't. You can see it in others, you can feel it for others, but it can become grossly complicated and interwoven into your worlds.

There's the fact that none of us asked to be here, we all just popped out, crying and hungry and have fought to figure it out ever since.

I work with kids. I spent short but impactful hours with groups of kids of various ages and backgrounds. Many of them want to grow up, to have power and freedom. But with all that, comes responsibility, as Peter Parker probably said. No one wants to pay bills, argue with their partners, fight for their children's health, or spend half their day at the mechanics shop. We didn't ask for this. But we have the option to handle it with grace, or greed. With a smile, or a frown. Nobody really teaches us that.

I have a vision of our future world. Maybe this is more of a sci-fi Hunger Games or The Giver sort of scenario, but picture this:
[use your best mental action movie narrator voice]. It's the year 3000. Aydrean is a Learner, a select group of only about a few hundred people in our human population of 20 billion (only 10 or so live on Earth), who have secure access to books, the way our ancient people gathered information. Aydrean spends his days browsing through library catalogues in a giant pyramid-like library, to collect information to put into the latest technology, keeping things up to date as well as adjusting historical files as necessary. Aydrean is so ecstatic to enter the library every day, he hardly notices that Jiyuna is watching him. Eventually Aydrean and Jiyuna fall in love, and Aydrean confesses his plan to make The Library accessible to all, in case others want to try this unique thing called learning. 
 I believe that education is the solution to everything. I feel that the more our students have the answer to everything at their fingertips, the lazier they get about their education, and lose their will to learn. And even though our teachers aren't required to teach about Greed or Trust or paying your bills, while you're in school... you do learn those things. I'm learning a lot of them right now, and even though it's hard, and painful sometimes... I'm grateful to be learning. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Two Ways to Live (in love)


As a teenager, I wanted to create a board game called "Either/or" or something like that, in which players were confronted with a decision that they had to pick a side on... such as: 
Do you drive the frontage road, or the highway?
Chocolate milk or plain?
Do you brush your teeth up and down or in circles? 

Somewhere I have a list of at least 50 more creative things I thought of over the years. This was a mental exercise that would help pull me from the very non-binary world that we live in and focus on the simple things. Do you prefer Sweet or Savory breakfasts? Are you a morning person or a night person? I never quite sorted out the game-part...how players move across the board or whatever, so patent is pending. 

As I've grown up, I've become increasingly aware of my science-centric mind, yet as a collector of data, I see the evidence in astrology. All that is to say, that as a Pisces sign, I often experience two polar-opposite things pulling me in different directions. That has ultimate been the theme of my life for the last 6-8 months, if not the last 5-10 years... and I am SO incredibly grateful for the patient friends who have helped me find a course despite the pulling. 


Image result for pisces
Two fish swimming in opposite directions-- a metaphor for my life. 

I was thinking about binaries on my 2 hour drive to my boyfriend's house this morning. My previous partner lived 6 hours away, so I suppose this is progress (even if we lived together for the last two years).  Do you move in with your partner immediately and try to work things out, or live separately until the ultimate commitment? I have always been in the latter category, but for the next few months I get to practice the former. 
Do you write letters, allowing time to wander between thoughts sent and thoughts received? Or reach out with the increasing-ease of immediacy that technology affords? I miss writing out letters of Thank yous. 
Thinking about the binary situations of the way I live now, contrasted with the way I lived when I moved to ABQ, I wondered: What's changed? My partner, partly. Another quality of Pisces is leading with our heart, and being sort of a maleable spirit, and I have seen that exemplified in my life through my last four partners (It's been a wild 5 years...). And also, my job. I remember thinking a lot before I took this full-time position about how it would change the slow-pace of my life. The blog I wrote about how everyone should work part time would become hypocritical, and instead I would spend the next three + years working time and a half or so, for a cause I believe in through every fiber of my being.  

Through the last five years with four different partners and one very complicated job; I have learned the two ways* to live (and love; in love?)...
1) As a planner: 
a)I spent a lot of this life thinking about the future. I wasn't often satisfied with a meal, for I was thinking about my next one. I asked the universe for things, and it responded. I was constantly planning my next hour, day, 10 years. And this helped me get a sense for my current trajectory and how to track success on every step of my journey. 
b)Perhaps more a consequence of my transient lifestyle than my partner(s) at the time, I also had a lot more free time to put into writing letters, being intentional with my words, making food from scratch, and traveling with a flexible itinerary (and 3-6 plans for how that itinerary COULD go).

2) In the moment: 
a)I've been learning this one in the last few years. While I don't think I connect with it as much deep down, I can appreciate the beauty that comes with living in the moment. Why plan the future, if there's a chance it's going to change, is my current partner's mentality. So we wing a lot. We find ourselves in unique unplanned situations that often are pretty cool, but sometimes are less fun than waiting at a dentists office. We definitely have good stories that come from unexpected last-minute decisions. For example, we've been talking about purchasing a bed together for a while. I imagined we'd go to three different mattress stores, lay on 100 different mattresses and argue about the necessary hardness to get a night's sleep... but instead we drove a European-sized Wal-Mart at 9:30pm and gazed at different varieties of inflatable mattresses and toppers before settling on a queen-sized-green-tea-scented foam thing in a 2'x4' box. Through this life, I laugh a lot. Instead of having expectations, I embrace the daily surprises. 
b)Then, as a result of my latest lifestyle, I'm living a bit more frantically. I rejuvenate quickly from a shower or a cup of coffee, then go back into checking off tasks, an ever-growing list that will never be satisfied. Food is less-interesting, and more quickly fulfilling. I live for the deep breaths looking at the clouds, or the rare event that I get to listen to a whole song with nothing else on my mind but the beats of the music. I soak in the sporadic successes of hours of sweating, speaking and scheduling. 

I'm really grateful my my mutability, though it's really a pain in the ass sometimes (there go those fish again). I'm thankful that I have immersed myself into different lifestyles and challenged myself to embrace new behaviors.... for now I have enough data to know that I'd like to settle into 1b, with a dose of 2a. In the very-real transition into my 30's, I'm appreciative of all the chances I took and experiences I had in my 20's. Now I know what I which way I want to live. 

Which way do you live? How would you characterize your life?


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Recycling Report

I get a lot of e-mails for local events, and many of them, are cleverly marketed to look rather interesting. But when I realized I was available mid-Saturday to attend the Recycling Panel to update Albuquerque on the state of recycling... I wrote it in all my calendars, and convinced a friend to come with me.
It is totally indicative of my interest in learning that I neglected to notice that the panel was part of a larger event-- the 9th annual Recycle Festival!
So last Saturday, I dragged my young friend along, fueled by some delicious chiliquiles, into a room of about 30 people facing a panel of 5 people, two of whom I knew (one used to live in my house, another I know through his waste management job).
While waiting for the final panelist, the facilitator was probing the audience for what we were curious about.
I admitted, "I have always been a recycling Nazi/ambassador (depending on which side you're on). When I moved here, I had the opportunity to tour the recycling sorting center, which provided great insight into the behind-the-scenes world of recycling. I'm the kind of person that pulls bottles out of trash cans and makes quips at people for not walking the 3 feet to the recycle bin. So I feel like I should be equipped with the best information."
At the Friedman Recycling Center, I saw how they used magnets to pull out metals, and wind to sort the paper. They used employees to further sort, and then baled everything up and sent it away. It was there that I learned the 5% rule-- that whatever gets sorted only has to be 95% of that substance. This was illustrated as we walked around a big bale of papers, complete with pipe cleaners from some child's art project poking out.
Part of the discussion on Saturday was centered around a big change to that rule. China has vowed to no longer accept the world's "Garbage". Recycling plants (predominately in China) have started sending back anything with more than .5 percent contamination.
What does this mean for recycling?
"We should think of quality over quantity" said one of the panelists, as a take-away. This directly contradicts my previous method, which the panel shamefully referred to as "aspirational recycling."
Since seeing the recycling center, and their publications about everything that can be recycled, I was definitely the kind of person who would toss anything that wasn't plastic film or food waste and think, "they'll figure it out".
But with the new recycling standards, people like me need to get in check. Quality over quantity means thinking about the energy that goes into processing the things we put into our green bins, and imagining what it's going to be on the other side.
(We talked briefly about greenwaste, which unlike material recyclings is usually recycled locally, saving another precious resource).
I walked away from the talk feeling excited, and a little ashamed. One of the questions to the panel was how we can justify, living in a severe drought state, the water necessary to rinse out our recycling. No one had a conclusive answer to the same question that I was asked by a family member when I was home for Christmas, so I did some research. I read 8 articles from California, Australia and in between (if you're looking at a Mercator map), and this one tells the fullest story, which can be summarized saying: use gray water to rinse the food out of your plastics, metals and glass so you're not wasting water.

If you're new to recycling, or you don't have the time or opportunity to visit your local plant and attend panels of recycling agents-- you can download the Recycle Coach App, which has a search option for all your queries.



Monday, April 9, 2018

The State of our State and the World it's within

If you were to read every blog I've written (not counting those angsty livejournal pages from High school), you would note a clear shift from environmentalist to doomsdayer. It's becoming increasingly difficult to put down my "Oh-shit, we're fucked" mindset and focus on the joys of nagging people to recycle one bottle at a time...especially in our current world. If you don't know what I'm taking about, pick up any newspaper.

The EPA being sued for violating clean air policy 
Massive Oil Spill in Indonesia

---
These are just a couple headlines in the last few weeks.

I am fortunate in some ways to get to spend the Spring away from technology and news, hiking in remote public and private lands of Northwestern New Mexico with local students, sharing with them an appreciation for the Earth beneath their feet, and trying with all my might to instill a sense of wonder at this wholly-connected world we live in.
Despite my very full-time job leading and organizing camping trips, I have had some unique opportunities so far this year, to travel beyond those trips and gather beta on the depressing (my opinion) state of our future generations.

Some students on an adventure-focused trek 
REI's latest ad campaign states that Americans spend an average of 95% of their lives INDOORS. Despite constant evidence that, as animals, we are designed to be in and connect with nature, we seem to be increasingly ignoring this connection, and even causing harm to it. This is both promising and discouraging-- even heart-wrenching. Working in a field that promotes environmental literacy, there is a sort of capitalistic promise in that we are making positions like mine, and the knowledge I possess more scarce. But it won't matter how marketable my skills are when our mono-crops have failed, we've destroyed 25% of the Earth's diversity, and billions of people are fighting over privately owned water sources. See-- sustainability and politics/the hope of our future freedoms are more hand in hand that most of America believes, it seems.

Outside Magazine's most recent issue has an article explaining the pollution and mismanagement of Mt Everest. I think this is a beautifully horrifying metaphor for our use of the outdoors. Mt Everest is a microcosm of our use of nature. Find the biggest/baddest and conquer it, giving little thought to the impact of you doing so.  In the same magazine as the REI ad and the Mt. Everest article, there's a review of the movie Mountain. With our decreasing understanding of the Earth and how it's working, and the slow stripping away of our public lands, romantic places to relax and unwind will so soon be full of people and pollution.

This weekend I led a presentation for the Association of Experiential Education conference here in Albuqeurque. My topic was how to engrain Environmental Education into Outdoor Education because it came to my attention at the international conference in November, that they aren't the same thing. There are currently people earning degrees in Outdoor Leadership and Adventure Learning that don't have biology, ecology or environmental studies as a required course. They take students into the wilderness for days or weeks at a time, and don't know of the incredible contentedness of the ecology they're existing in. This is a huge problem.

I attended two education conferences this winter. At SXSW EDU in Austin last month, I stood in a room full of ways to connect students to new technologies, to teach circuit building and robotics. One company teaches through holograms-- allowing kids to "experience" new things. We are clearly on the verge of a futuristic world that I honestly don't want to live in. I was one of three organizations there that offered travel experiences, and the only one that does so unplugged. We are so obsessed with ensuring kids have the abilities to be 'connected' we have forgotten to connect them first with the earth beneath their feet.

My booth at SXSW
At the Montessori Conference in Denver, I was a little more enlightened. Inspired by the Rachel Carson quote,
 "If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adults who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."
I was reminded that Montessori educators value nature, above most things, and students lucky enough to receive a Montessori education have greater environmental literacy than most. The conference was concurrent with the rallies for stricter gun control, which was inspiring to see. It is my understanding that most of what they are asking for is already in play in our legal system...but it was encouraging to see the turnout of families and adults and children of all ages.




Every day, I am grateful that I followed my heart toward a degree in Environmental Studies. And every day I am enraged that the people who make political decisions, educate our youth, and affect our daily lives did not obtain the same simple education. I am working HARD to ensure that everyone, at least in New Mexico, has some environmental awareness. But this fight is taking too long. At this rate, there will be little of our Mother Earth to fight for by the time we win. I am honestly afraid of what is to come. All I can do in the meantime is smell the flowers and wonder for how many years they will be able to bloom.

Want to test your "Environmental Literacy"? Here's a quiz with some basic questions EVERYONE should know.