This summer, we are featuring reflections from recent Eco Practicum alumni about the most moving things they experienced in the program. Angelica Radke is one of our first participants to do both our Spring Break NYC and Summer Catskills programs. In this post, she talks about the new values we'll need to really make progress on major environmental issues.
Describe an "ah-ha!" moment you had during the Practicum.
I want to help transform our culture. I want to help change what we put the most value on. Because today what drives us to want souped up cars, large homes, acres of weed-free lawn, beach front property and all the latest trends is completely unsustainable. What drives us is largely the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, I want help create a society where the individual’s level of happiness is not so relative to material, but relative to their own relationship with the Earth and community.
What was the trigger?
We went to the Delaware County of Public Works, where they sort the county’s single-streamed trash. Seeing the tons of trash made me realize that we need to redefine what waste means and what it looks like. There at the DCPW I thought about how it’s taken a lot of effort to get people to reuse and recycle, but it’s going to take so much more effort to get people, wealthier people in particular, to reduce their consumption. This is largely because of the satisfaction from shopping (but it doesn’t last long, right?). Later in the week, waste came up in a discussion on a video about trashing the planet with plastics and non-biodegradable things.
At the Catskill Arts Society, I thought about the role education and art would have in a transformation like this. The venues and space they had was perfect for sparking some discussion and providing people with a new attitude or way of thinking.
What did you learn?
I learned that one of our greatest problems is that of overconsumption, causing us to “require” irrecoverable amounts of Earth’s precious finite resources. Our fate depends on the change of this trend, not solely in our ability to increase energy efficiency or use renewables. I also learned from my own experience there that putting your hands in the dirt and interacting with nature, as well as investing in communities, will help create a paradigm shift. Strong communities can help guide people to make wiser decisions and sacrifices, and sensing that we’re part of something larger will make us feel safer and happier.
How did it change what you had previously thought to be true?
I didn’t quite realize how critical a cultural transformation was in order to live sustainably until a culmination of events during the program. I also didn’t see how important a role community, education, and art would have in this transformation. Kids need to see the value in community and Earth’s resources, and see that there is no need for NEW and the most UP TO DATE version to be happy. I want people, especially future generations, to be happy knowing that they are living consciously, considerately, and allowing the environment to regenerate itself. I want to help work in that direction. With that I have an optimistic view of our future 100 and even 1,000 years from now.
- Angelica Radke
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