Helping the Environment Isn’t Just a Green Revolution, but a Cultural Revolution

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By: Megan Porter

Pressure. As college students, we feel it in some form or another. Last year, I felt the pressure to get an internship. Don’t get me wrong; I was pumped to go do things out in the real world and live in a new location over the summer. Student internships are something Elon prides itself on and you can read so many stories about how students got fantastic, amazing and super cool internships at Google, MTV and the Smithsonian. What I didn’t realize was the amount of research, writing and effort it takes to send out applications, cover letters, resumes and references. Finally, after a roller coaster ride, I managed to secure an internship position in a National Forest.

Basically, I got to live on top of a mountain this summer. Not in a rural town or even a campground but in a dorm building on a mountain miles away from the nearest community. I saw the same twenty people at work but rarely saw other individuals besides the other interns I lived with on my days off. There was no TV and we were at the mercy of whether the Internet router decided it wanted to work or not. I spent my days hiking, teaching and learning about the environment…but mainly hiking and exploring the natural beauties the mountain offered.

All summer long I lived in the shadow of the mountain. I lived among the flora and fauna and people who taught me to see the simplicity and significance of nature. I ate wild berries for snacks and fireflies were my flashlights at night. Some of my hikes tested my physical limits and made me a more confident person because of them. I felt like I was an observer immersed in nature, and nature asked nothing in return for its miracles.

Needless to say, it was a culture shock landing at the Boston airport at the end of the summer. When I did come back I didn’t change in any radical outside way but my perspectives did. To be completely honest, I felt like someone had turned up the volume of my world. Things were louder and crowded, but things were also faster and easier. In the mountains I didn’t even think much about my favorite pizza place, but when I was home it was all I was craving. Up in the mountains I could read a book in the sun for hours without a thought passing through my head, but when I was home and when I returned to Elon I felt guilty for having that free time.

What does that mean? It means I reflected exactly what our society is today. Our culture has this mindset of more, more, more and that newer equals the best. We have developed technology so that we are constantly doing more stuff, whether that “stuff” is a mindless game of Angry Birds or finishing homework while watching TV while texting while downloading music. When’s the last time you were able to read an assigned reading all the way through without any distractions?

If you don’t have the newest iPad don’t worry because it’s rumored that another model is coming out in just a couple of weeks. Think of the millions of orders Apple will get, and also think of all of the materials and resources that will be used to create, transport and package the devices. An approximate 1.2 trillion gallons of industrial waste are dumped into U.S. waters each year.

It is not the environment we should primarily focus our efforts on because we are the ones who need fixing. I am all for the green revolution, but perhaps we need a cultural revolution more.  People seem fixated with the idea of joining the newest trends and satisfying “false” needs. Instead, our society needs to concentrate on quality and living simply in order to reduce the toll our lifestyle is taking on earth and on ourselves. When you feel that daily pressure, try to step back and evaluate what is truly important in your life. As author Deepak Chopra said “the intention to live as long as possible isn’t one of the mind’s best intention, because quantity isn’t the same as quality.”

In the last century, sea levels rose roughly 7 inches after not having changed noticeably in the previous 2,000 years. According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the temperature in the U.S. has increased by 2 degrees in the last 50 years and precipitation by 5 percent. It is hard to always be conscious of our actions when we don’t see immediate results. Just like how you take care of your health, why not take care of earth’s too? So turn off the lights and heat when you’re away, recycle, use a reusable water bottle, visit the thrift stores and buy secondhand items, print less and eat less meat, and so much more. There are a million and five different ways you can make a difference right now. You’ll probably benefit economically and help the environment.

I believe change is possible. I believe in the wind in my hair. I believe that we can make this earth a cleaner place to live. I believe in the sun on my face. I believe that the human race can become better, smarter, stronger and more unified than ever before. It is our turn now, so let’s make this change.

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