By Haley Prihoda, Conserving Natural and Cultural Heritage in Dunn’s Woods intern
I could not be more grateful for my internship with the Office of Sustainability this summer. The experience has revealed all that I have taken for granted and helped me understand the larger consequences of my thoughtless actions. From an alternate perspective, however, it has also inspired me with a sense of self-worth by highlighting the significant contributions one person can make.
As I look back at the beginning of this summer, I truly see a different person. Entering the summer internship program as a history major with very little background in sustainability, I admittedly felt like a fish out of water. My peers continually impressed me with their knowledge, dedication, and passion for the field. During our debates and discussions, this passion was often palpable, with everyone contributing well-informed, yet unique perspectives. As the weeks continued, my familiarity with the issues increased and I was proud to consider myself more informed about the topics we discussed (global warming, environmental politics, alternative energy, ecosystem services, etc.). As my knowledge grew, so did my passion. I began to feel a stronger internal connection to the crisis at hand. I wanted to address the issues, and, possibly even more importantly, I wanted to spread the message: The world needs our help.
This changed occurred over such a short period of time that it almost could have gone unnoticed. In fact, most of my friends seemed to think that my increased concern for the environment was a natural extension of the path I was already on. It is this fact, the seemingly natural change in my perspective, that has interested me the most. Why is it that I took to heart the same message thousands of people around the world have chosen to ignore? Why was my passion ignited? And, how can I use my experience to reach others?
My conclusion: my friends were right. Sustainability and environmental protection already aligned with my world-view, I just had not had enough exposure to the topic to realize it. This may seem like a disappointing realization, but I have actually found it quite helpful. The fact is, not every aspect of sustainability interests me. My passion was ignited by one simple value: nature. Nature brings me peace. It is a place where I can escape, where I can listen to my own thoughts, where I can stop and smell the roses. It can make me feel infinitely powerful and yet infinitely trivial all at the same time. Nature keeps me in check.
Establishing this connection, between something I love and something I should do, was enough to call me to action. It is my love of nature that encourages me to ride a bike rather than drive, to recycle rather than waste, and to plant native flowers rather than harmful alternatives. I have found that it is not necessary to love sustainability, or to be interested in every sustainable initiative. The important thing is to identify what you love, because I can guarantee that something on that list relates to this larger cause.