On February 22nd, a group of four Earth Task Force members attended the Alliance for Sustainability Conference at the Colorado State Capitol Building. At the conference the Earth Task Force learned about current bills that focus on sustainability, climate change and the environment. Adam Stenftenagel, the co-founder and CEO of Snugg Home presented at the conference. He informed the audience about simple, cost-effective ways to improve the energy efficiency of residential homes.
After the initial briefing, students were introduced to Andy Kerr, a Colorado state senator working on green school bills. Kerr informed the ETF about a bill he recently wrote and sponsored. House bill 09-1312 allows school districts to apply for a small loan from the Colorado state treasury at a low interest rate. This bill will allow the ETF to apply for a grant that wouldn’t have been possible due to lack of funds from the school district. Speaking to Kerr in person was an unexpected, yet wonderful experience for the ETF it meant that a state senator was willing to take time out of his day to speak directly with high school students.
Andy Kerr invited Earth Task Force students to sit in on the House floor as bills were being discussed by the legislators. The students also spent their day speaking with house and state representatives. They discussed an upcoming plastic bag ban in Denver, and invited the politicians to a rally for the ban on April 13th, 2013. The unique experience provided the young activists with valuable information and tools with which to complete current and future projects. The experience also taught students that approaching, and working with local government officials is possible and a useful resource for the future.
Written by student journalists Robert Harding and Tavius Koktavy.
The Earth Task Force (ETF) is a Cottonwood Institute-supported program at New Vista High School in Boulder, CO designed to give students an opportunity to take the lead to implement sustainability initiatives at their school.
Journal Entry – Question: “Hopes, Ideas, Challenges on Action Project (theme of Transportation)?”
(note: ‘ours’ means Boulder/CAP/New Vista; ‘we’=CAP)
I have many hopes and dreams
save the world, find some friends, fight some battles —
I have many hard times as well;
challenges, conflicts, cynicism –
But for good, solid, Action – such a Project
My hopes for our project are such that New Vista may benefit from our actions on t transportation;
My hopes are such that the bus system is more efficient;
My dreams are such that I may not need to use a car –
that a bike or a bus is sufficient;
My dreams are such that nature is incorporated
into the very fiber,
as it were, of every means of transportation –
My dreams and hopes are such that unique energy sources
that let us ‘get there’ quickly; may be ours to have
and to share.
Challenges? That’s harder – I’m sure our ‘foes’ are plenty;
I fear the time – fleeting, always less –
will hinder, as it always does;
I fear the ignorance of others, which will always come in plenty;
may stunt us for a time –
I fear the rise and fall of inspirited ideas;
like waves, inconstant but in their
consistency for dreams –
I know that difficulties from adults in the big world of business,
may hinder us with their unbelieving eyes
(meaning their tired-of-teens sighs)
I know that we – however corny it may seem – may overcome
the obstacles –
if we are obstinate and fight
for our meager rights…
even in transportation,
we may win.
EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY THINK THAT PAPER AND PLASTIC IS NOT AS IMPORTANT AS FOOD AND WATER WE STILL USE THEM IN OUR DAILY LIVES. FOR INSTANCE, WE USE PAPER FOR THINGS LIKE TAKING NOTES IN CLASS OR WRITING IMPORTANT LETTERS TO OUR FAMILY. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, WE USE AND NEED PAPER TO BETTER OUR FUTURE (SUCH AS TURNING IN ASSIGNMENTS TO OUR TEACHERS SO THEY WILL KNOW WHERE WE ARE WITH OUR EDUCATION).
WE ALSO USE PLASTIC DAILY TOO. LIKE GOING ON A WALK, WE USE OUR (PLASTIC) WATER BOTTLES TO HAVE ENERGY AND TO STAY HYDRATED. ANOTHER WAY WE USE PLASTIC IS TO CARRY OUR GROCERIES OUT TO THE CAR. IF WE DIDN’T HAVE PLASTIC BAGS IT WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TO CARRY OUR GROCERIES OUT OF THE MARKET.
OUR PROJECT, DESIGNING AND SELLING CLOTH GROCERY BAGS, WILL BENEFIT THE LOCAL COMMUNITY BECAUSE PLASTIC BAGS ARE RECYCLABLE AND IF WE USE CLOTH BAGS THAT SAVING A LOT OF MONEY AND HARM TO OUR ANIMALS. TO ENSURE THIS PROJECT IS A SUCCESS I WILL TRY MY HARDEST TO SPREAD THE WORD AROUND LETTING EVERYONE IN OUR COMMUNITY KNOW ABOUT OUR PROJECT. IN CONCLUSION, DESIGNING AND SELLING CLOTH GROCERY BAGS INSTEAD OF PLASTIC WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN OUR COMMUNITY.
The Community Adventure Program has changed my life. Not only has it awakened in me a passion I never knew existed; it has increased my awareness about environmental issues in my community and shown me that I can make a difference. After taking the CAP class for the first time I realized that I loved being outdoors and that I was very interested in outdoor survival techniques. Since that first class I have taken two others and am currently serving as a student mentor in CAP classes and participating in a CE with the Cottonwood Institute. I also started the CAP club at my school with a few friends and have decided to design my culminating project around outdoor survival skills. None of this would be happening if I had not taken CAP.
After participating in three CAP classes and their action projects I came to realize that I can make a difference in my community. CAP gave me the opportunity to brainstorm environmental issues in Boulder as well as design and implement 3 projects with my classmates. Not only was I helping others but developing personal skills such as leadership and public speaking.
Community Adventure Program has empowered me to explore new ideas and volunteer in my community. It has enriched my life in so many different ways and I wouldn’t be the same without it.
The Community Adventure Program has changed my life. Not only has it
awakened in me a passion I never knew existed; it has increased my
awareness about environmental issues in my community and shown me that
I can make a difference. After taking the CAP class for the first time
I realized that I loved being outdoors and that I was very interested
in outdoor survival techniques. Since that first class I have taken two
others and am currently serving as a student mentor in CAP classes and
participating in a CE with the Cottonwood Institute. I also started the
CAP club at my school with a few friends and have decided to design my
culminating project around outdoor survival skills. None of this would
be happening if I had not taken CAP.
After participating in three CAP classes and their action projects I
came to realize that I can make a difference in my community. CAP gave
me the opportunity to brainstorm environmental issues in Boulder as
well as design and implement 3 projects with my classmates. Not only
was I helping others but developing personal skills such as leadership
and public speaking.
Community Adventure Program has empowered me to explore new ideas
and volunteer in my community. It has enriched my life in so many
different ways and I wouldn’t be the same without it.
This class has been a great experience for me in many ways. The overnight trips were very fun and educational, especially the second one. I learned what burns well, how to start fires, how to find firewood, how to make quinzes (sp?) and much more. The action project was also a valuable experience, from learning my way around the confusing outer workings of government to working with everyone else on getting all the goals accomplished. The ecological footprint problem is very interesting to me on all fronts – I push my parents to buy energy-efficient cars, appliances, light bulbs and more, and I myself buy energy efficent and environmentally friendly products when possible. In today’s America, though, it’s getting harder and harder to do so. Overall this class has been great, even though it is not without its drawbacks. I look forward to taking it again, maybe even next year, if possible.
The weekend overnights were probably the most fun part of this class. I personally love the outdoors, and so a class where you can get credit for camping (which I never get to do, but always want to) is…well…amazing. I thought that this would be a cool class, but I didn’t expect this! It was amazing how much fun (and frustration) you can get out of a simple bow drill…I now understand why cavemen were so happy to have fire… its really hard to make! One match fires are easy in comparison, and lighter fires are even better. Now it almost seems like cheating using a lighter. Even with our determination to make it happen, none of us got the bow drill to work. If our life depended on it, though, I’m sure we could manage to get it going. It’s amazing how the will to live will do that to you. Another valuable skill is learning how to find wood that will burn well. On the first overnight, I managed to find no end of wood that smoked a whole lot and burned really slow. I wasn’t part of the wood-gathering crew on the 2nd, but I did learn that it needs to be bigger so it can stay mostly out of the snow. You also need to cut that wood into smaller logs so it will work for your fire. Building a quinzee was another part of this trip I’ll remember for a long time. It was not what I expected; I expected it build like an igloo. When we started piling snow in the middle of our area, I was very confused. Once I found out that you dug it out, my confusion disappeared, and was replaced with anticipation. The digging out took longer than I expected, but once done, it was all worth it.
The only problem I experienced was the teams. I got the feeling that everyone didn’t really like me, and that brought me down a little, but other than that, there were almost no real problems, with the exception of my poor cardiovascular abilities and not sleeping very well. These were more of minor annoyances than challenges, but nonetheless, they were problems. I felt I was slowing the hike to the campsite on both overnights, though not as bad on the first one because Chris was also going slow. On the second, I felt really bad because I was going über-slow and slowing everyone down. Me not sleeping very well also badly affected my team and I. On the first and second trips, I had difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and felt that I was accidentally waking my tent/ quinzeemates much too often. I know this negatively affected me, and I am pretty sure this negatively affected them.
Overall, the weekend overnights were a wonderful experience, and would be happy to do them again. As with anything, there were setbacks and problems, but it was a remarkable experience, and something I will remember for a long time to come.
The Action Project was an interesting part of this course. It was probably the most educational part of CAP, but also the least fun. Not to say it was boring or annoying, but it was boring and annoying. I learned a lot of the confusing outer workings of our government doing this; overall a valuable skill, but it sure didn’t seem valuable while I was doing it. The thing that I learned the most about in our action project, behind the mud snail, was line rider. It’s an amazing little toy, and no matter how much you tried to get us to stop, we kept playing it. You hafta admit, though, some of those courses we made were really cool. Well, back to the mud snail. I learned an incredible amount of facts about the mudsnail, and in the end, I almost cared a little. Even from the beginning, I didn’t really care too much about invasive species, but I didn’t have an objection to it. I can work with that if everyone wanted to do that. So I kept going along with it. I was actually looking forward to finding some cool invasive species, and then I heard what invasive species we were going to do: the New Zealand mud snail. Great. Everybody seemed happy with it though, so I just went with the flow. I still don’t particularly care, but, hey, everyone else seemed to like it, so I’m fine.
The challenges with the action project are probably very obvious from my previous paragraph. The only challenge I really had was caring about it. These little tiny snails that I haven’t even seen or been affected by just don’t really have a huge impact on my life. I understand what they do, and all that junk but I just don’t really care- it’s a basic human flaw that almost everybody has. I just don’t really have the motivation to do anything if it doesn’t really affect me. Sad, huh?
Overall, the action project was definitely the worst part of the class, but even under all the not caring; it was still a valuable lesson- in speaking up, doing what needs to be done, and not rushing the government. Rushing the government just makes it go slower. So it was the worst part, but it still was not that bad. If the worst is not that bad, that is the mark of a good class.
We didn’t really talk that much about our ecological footprint, but what we did do on it was the best part of class that actually took place in the classroom. I already do many things to reduce my carbon footprint, but there is always more you can do. I have already changed my light bulbs in most rooms of my house, and will replace more as time goes on. We turn our thermostat up three degrees in the summer and down three degrees in winter. We have cars that are good on gas (not hybrids, but still good) and we have special power outlets for most electronic equipment that cut off all power when not turned on. So all in all, we do much more for the environment than most households. I am very proud of what I have done, and gotten my parents to do for the environment.
There are only two things that I still want to do and those are switch to energy efficient appliances and get wind power. Not a small task like changing the bulbs, but I think that this will help us get even father towards saving the glaciers and giving my future children and myself a better world to live in. both of these have been shown to dramatically decrease your carbon emissions, which is exactly what I have been aiming to do. My goal is to get my carbon emissions low enough that if everybody in the world had the same carbon emissions, we would be okay for two thousand years. No small feat, but I believe it to be doable.
So all in all, CAP was a wonderful, memorable experience that I will remember for a long time. I am so happy I took this class, and I think that future students will love it just as much as I do. I learned so much, about wilderness survival and camping, mud snails and the government, the environment and what I can do, but beyond even all that, I learned about myself. Some parts of my personality surfaced and became stronger and some sunk to the bottom of my subconscious. CAP is a wonderful class and I highly recommend it to anyone. And to anyone who is actually reading all or some of these: Zak is quite a strange ranger. Don’t pay too much attention to him, especially if he is badmouthing CAP. I think he really did like it, whether he says so or not.
Weekend Overnights: This aspect of the class was by far my favorite. Being able to get away from school and home life stresses was truly a treat. There was much preparation for these trips, including menu planning, packing, and of course lesson plans that Ford had to make. Many of the skills we learned I was already familiar with, but nevertheless it was great to get a refresher. I am glad that I was also able to learn some new skills. For example: the lean to debris shelter, cordage, animal tracking, rescue scenarios, and a little bit about edible plants. Highlights of the two trips were harvesting dandelions and eating the delicious salad, blind drum stalk, capture the flag, friction fire, and the time at night when we all just sat around the fire and talked, sang, and relaxed. I really appreciate everyone who was in the class and the contributions they all made. For the most part I felt that there was a very positive and cooperative attitude throughout the entire group. This made both trips so much more enjoyable. Not only did I learn technical skills like fire building, bear hangs, shelters, tracking, etc… I also practiced the social skills needed to create a functioning and happy group. I will of course use all of the skills I learned again. All of the technical skills will be put to excellent use this summer when I go camping, and I am sure that the social skills will continue to be helpful to me whenever I am in a group of people. I will also be able to build upon the social skills and expand what I already know.
Action Project: I thought our Action Project was a huge success. Everyone got along so nicely and we all accomplished quite a lot. Before we did this project I was not aware that all storm drains led to Boulder creek, that washing your car could be harmful, that dog poop was polluting the creek, and that Boulder creek is very heavily loaded with bacteria. These are all things I probably wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for our Action Project. Our projects included: stenciling and decaling storm drains, a creek clean up, and education at the Farmer’s Market; not to mention the two articles that were written about our class. I think the best part about the Actions Project, and something that only CAP can provides, is that it gives high school students a voice. I do believe that we can create positive change just as effectively as an adult can. Others might be skeptical in the beginning, but it has been my experience that adults and peers alike end up admiring you for taking an active role in the community.
CAP As a Whole: I have learned so much from my experiences with CAP. I am more confident now that I can make change and contributions to society, even if I am in high school. The Action Project really helped me to develop this mindset. It also taught me that I can have fun while doing something that helps my community out. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to be a part of CAP because it isn’t something that every student in Boulder has the opportunity to do. It makes me feel so good that I know how to survive if I were ever to be lost in the wilderness and that I know how to reduce my footprint while camping. Not everyone knows these skills. I am also really proud of myself and the class, as well as our accomplishments with the Action Project. I kind of feel like we are representing all of our peers when we go out to places like the Farmer’s Market and interact and educate our fellow members of the community.
Ecological Footprint: To minimize my ecological footprint I am currently doing the following things: recycling, being vegetarian, using environmentally safe household cleaners, buying organic and local whenever possible, reuse plastic bags, and buy recycled aluminum foil. This is all that I can think of right now. I also do some things that aren’t too great for the environment. The biggest one is that I definitely use a lot of disposable coffee cups and throw them away. This is definitely something that I need to stop doing and a step I should take to reducing my ecological footprint. I also like to take long showers. Not only does this result in high water bills, but it also wastes water. I could also stop doing this. Composting is also something that I want to start doing at my house.
The purpose of high school should be to prepare for the future. It should be to ensure a stable future for the students and a better future for the world in general. One of the teachers here at New Vista says part of why he teaches is so that he can live in a world of aware people who make the world a more beautiful place. The current system is set up towards creating more of a career based future for students rather than a better future for the world, although I think the latter is just as important, if not more. Seen in that light, a class like CAP, that gives awareness to students concerning the preciousness of our natural surroundings, and connects us back to our roots in the environment, is one of the most vital classes that a student can take. Until I took this class, my goal in high school was my future, and now it’s everyone’s. Now, whenever I take a class I will be integrating the information I learn in it towards how it can be used in creating a better world.
The technological world we live in can be very consuming. With modern electricity, transportation, communication, all the conveniences brought about by technology, plus having to take care of meaningless careers and appointments, humans get distracted from what matters in life. The beauty of a blue sky with white clouds is not noticed, the oxygen given by the plant life is not appreciated, and nature is cast aside. People naturally become embittered by living in that kind of a world every day. Along with the bitterness comes selfishness and a disregard for life. This is the state of millions, if not billions of humans. This is why I love camping so much. Some people think camping is a chore, but for me it’s the best vacation possible. It is such a relief not to have to worry about any of that worldly stuff. Camping is a state of simply living, with absolutely nothing to distract from that. If more people could be taught to value this simple experience, like is taught in CAP, then I think we would be living in a much different world. There wouldn’t be the problem of governments selling off persevered forest land and throwing out environmental standards because that kind of government wouldn’t be tolerated. I already loved camping before I took CAP, but this class expanded my love and appreciation for nature. I now know how to camp in a much more natural manner than I used to, which can make the experience even better. I’ve learned what to do with fire remains so that it benefits the surroundings, how to create several shelters out of the surroundings, to read maps with more skill, and a bunch of other stuff.
The technological dependence of America and other countries is frightening. As was pointed out, for all of human existence humans have been directly subject to the laws of nature. It is only in the last few generations that humans have broken away from that and become dependant on devices that protect them from nature’s laws. Many skills that our ancestors possessed are no longer known because no one felt the need to remember them. There is a part of me that is scared when I realize that in a survival situation without gas heat, running water, and a food store one block away, I could be in trouble. Now that I’ve learned things like how to start a fire from scratch, how to create shelters that will keep me warm, how to find a source of water, how to be prepared for rescue, how to accurately find the cardinal directions, even how to hunt animals without alerting them, I’ve gained a sense of confidence. I feel like I’ve taken a step away from the ties that bond me to the craziness of the technological world.
I’ve never liked acting out of guilt. Whenever I do something I want it to be for a reason I understand or because I feel it’s right. When I act out of guilt I don’t feel satisfied with anything I accomplish, because it is all in an attempt to alleviate the guilt. The problem is that I’ve never had any motivation for reducing my ecological footprint except guilt. I’ve always cared somewhat, but I guess I never believed that my actions could make enough of a difference, so I didn’t waste my time. It’s made me curious what motivates the great activists. They didn’t start out famous leaders trying to change the world. What was it that led them to that path? I’m not sure but I think I’m starting to gain some understanding. I don’t think it’s so much that they think they can make a difference, as that they don’t have any other choice. It’s either you live for the world or you live against it and they live for it with a passion. The result is, is that they do make a difference. At some point during this class, part because of the thinking the action project subjected me to, part because of all the quotes, and part because of the discussions, I started to care less whether or not I could make a difference, and simply wanted to try. It is still satisfying to know that a difference is being made. For that, I mostly have to trust that it is. In the class we talked about the ripple effect. Whatever I say or do is part of the worlds unfolding even if I don’t notice it at first or ever. Because I want that unfolding to happen in a positive manner then I need to make my actions as purposeful and positive as I can.
CAP is a great class not because of the cool material it teaches, but because it can change students. It has inspired me, changed my ideals, increased my awareness of nature, and brought to my attention my potential, on top of being fun and teaching some of the coolest material. A class that can accomplish that doesn’t deserve to lack budgeting. I consider the things I’ve gained from this class to probably be among the most important stuff I will ever learn at high school, or anywhere for that matter. One last thing that this class has given me is that I am now so much more open to the idea of helping the world. I used to have a slight aversion from becoming like what I considered a hippie, shouting for world peace and environmental standards. I didn’t understand the motives of people who do stuff like that so I avoided it. To understand, I needed to change myself before I tried to change the world. I now have the tools to learn what it takes to help the world along. I’ve become open to information about activists, or about people that make a difference and how that is accomplished. I’ve started on a path that I’ll be on for the rest of my life.
When I signed up for the Community Adventure Program, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought I would be taking hikes, maybe learning some skills, perhaps volunteering in the "community." And here I am now, committed to helping solve a problem I didn’t even know existed until a few months ago. Here I am, committed to reducing my ecological footprint. And the astonishing thing about it…I actually want to. I now have a genuine desire to do something good for my environment. What motivated me to come to this realization, you ask? Was it the camping, the hiking, the vast expanses of untamed beauty? Was it the quotes, the inspirational movie? No, I think not. Although I enjoyed all the aspects of this class, it was the Action Project that motivated me to do something about the place in which I live. Don’t get me wrong however, I wasn’t particularly interested in zero waste when we started, or even now for that matter. It is not zero waste that is motivating me right now, nor is it the foul state of our earth, or how wastefully I am living. It is the people I saw in this class, living out what we was said in those quotes. People who live with purpose.
The two overnights we went on were extremely enjoyable for me and were very unique experiences as far as camping goes. I have been backpacking many time, almost every year since I could lift a pack, but I never knew how to hang a bear-hang, scatter the ashes of the fire, dig a sump hole, or sleep under a tarp…correctly that is. It’s funny to think of that as it seems I have been doing these things forever. Perhaps that’s the mark of a great wilderness class, to do something twice, and make it seem like a hundred. Probably the only thing I would have changed about the trips would be to hike in further in, but do to the structure of the class, I realize that this would be impossible. I loved the structure of independence that the trips were based on in terms of eating and sleeping. It definitely made me feel much more self-reliant and confident. My favorite part, however, would have to be the blindfold drum exercise. I felt completely detached from everything except my feet, my hands, the earth and the trees. I think one of the most important things I realized, not in terms of “skills,” but in terms of perspectives, was that the object of camping is not to make the woods feel as comfortable as your living room, but rather make yourself the “living room,” and the world your woods. I like the idea of home within oneself, rather than an exterior home. That way everything can be a home, which can be as comfortable as you feel.
Our Action Project was probably my favorite part of the class, just because I have never done anything like that before, and it seems like something everybody should. I think an Action Project should be required to graduate from high school. If I ever start a high school, it will be like that. Concerning zero waste specifically, I had no idea it even existed until this project. Learning about the issue was great, and applying it worked fairly well. It was fun watching movies about it, hearing people talk about it, and then actually doing something. I think we should have pushed a bit harder, maybe set higher goals for our class to work towards, but the goals we did set were completed with style and grace. I loved what Alex Carr did to the flyer: he really took control of that project, and I think it was the best of anything we did. The skit was also quite good, but I’m not sure the audience understood what a fantastic job we really did. The Boulder Farmers Market rocked, I was surprised how many people were interested in what I/we had to say. I would talk to people, expecting to hear a polite “oh that’s nice,” but instead I would hear about their day, where they went to high school, or how much they loved the environment. Shocking. The shirts are also way rad. I wish we could have done more with businesses, but I guess it’s never to late to do something myself. I think it changed how I view environmental issues affecting the community in an optimistic, positive way. I had always been extremely pessimistic about the quality of the environment, but after seeing how much is really being done, at least in Boulder, and how many people care, I can’t help but see it as an issue that is changing for the better. I can’t say my views about high school students in the community have changed quite so much, however. I had rather high expectations for the class, as well as myself, which weren’t exactly fulfilled. What I can say is that a group of thirteen high school-age humans can accomplish just as much as the same amount of people in any age range, if not more. I think forming a habit of caring about the state of the planet might be exceptionally beneficial for society as a whole. I learned that making a change is extremely difficult, but also that it can be a good time. What can I say, being helpful makes me feel as though I have a purpose. I think we have set a great foundation for future CAP classes, mostly in our furthering of knowledge, connections, and that sweet flyer. I liked doing that Action Project and I know we reached some people outside the class; maybe ours will be the ripple that starts the revolution.
When I think of the Community Adventure Program class as a whole, I am reminded of how much we really accomplished. We went on hikes, we had philosophical discussions, we talked about the environment, we read Doctor Seuss, we tackled zero waste, but overall, if I had to think of one word to describe the class as a whole, I would say inspirational. Everything we did was about becoming inspired. We hiked and camped to appreciate the wilderness, to become inspired by the outdoors. We talked about our inspiration. We campaigned about our inspiration, through talking to people at the Farmers Market, through the flyer, skits and T-shirts. We become inspired. Inspired to change. Inspired to be the change. Inspired to be. The class as a whole, when I take a step back, was about making young people inspired.
When I think about my personal ecological footprint, it makes me want to go live in a cave somewhere, and live off of fungus, and create absolutely no waste. Unfortunately, as that’s not going to happen, some more reasonable measures should be taken I think. I always bus to and from school, which is good, but I could just as easily bike. I think I do moderately well, in terms of environmental effects, at least for my lifestyle. I always recycle, at least when I can, I reuse plastic bags, and other reusable items. I could do better, however, seeing as if everyone lived likes me, we would use seven point five planets. A big part of it, I think, is simply including the environment in my personal ethics and morals, making it something I stand for. I think if everyone thought of themselves as environmentalists, they might become environmentalists. The biggest personal motivator is always your own opinion. You are your harshest critic and that can go to work for you in a situation like this. The more I have begun to think of myself as environmentally conscious, the guiltier I feel when I act out of this ideology. That would be a great step, at least for me, in saving the world, which is basically at stake.
In conclusion, I would just like to say that I genuinely got something out of this class. I’m not saying it was life changing (although isn’t life life changing?) just that it had a positive impact on me. I’m also not saying that Figures 1 didn’t have a positive impact on me, because it did. All I’m saying, really, is that it inspired me, more than if I had taken Russian Revolution, or some such class. It shaped me for the better, what better praise could there be?
“Onward from vast uncharted spaces,
Forward through timeless voids,
Into all of us surges and races
The measureless might of the wind. [...]
In the steep silence of thin blue air
High on a lonely cliff-ledge,
Where the air has a clear, clean rarity,
I give to the wind…my pledge:
By the strength of my arm, by the sight of my eyes,
By the skill of my fingers, I swear,
As long as life dwells in me, never will I
Follow any way but the sweeping way of the wind.”
Everett Ruess made this pledge to the wind when he was fifteen; the rest of his life was spent fulfilling it as he wandered through Southern Utah. Ruess was a young artist and poet of the 1920’s. His mother Stella Knight Ruess was a talented Los Angeles Artist and his father, Christopher Ruess, was a professor at UCLA. He grew up in Los Angeles with his father, mother, and brother Waldo. Ruess attended Hollywood High School and graduated at sixteen. He then began his grand exploration of the Southwestern Deserts in January of 1931. His transportation was a small donkey (burro) named Chocolatero that he had purchased from a Navajo (although he had other Donkeys as well.) He hated the cities and found peace in the wilderness, while comparing both Ruess wrote: “Here I wander in beauty and perfection. There one walks in the midst of ugliness and mistakes.”
He continued to be a strong artist, creating wood and linoleum block prints, water color paintings, poems, and songs. As he sat alone in the Grand Canyon Everett Ruess explained: “The world does not want Art – only artists do.” In 1932 Everett Ruess wrote: “When the time comes to die, I’ll find the wildest, loneliest, most desolate spot there is,” when he was only eighteen years old. Some people think that this was a prediction of or for his death that would come a few years later.
He sent his last letter to his family while in the town of Escalante, Utah. These last words read: ”So, tomorrow I take to the trail again, to the Canyons south.” This last stop was made was in November 1934, he was only 20 years old. He disappeared down the Hole in the Rock Trail, his last adventure in the beautiful Utah Wilderness. Approximately three months later his starving donkeys, and mandatory gear were all found in Davis Gulch, near Escalante Canyon. Some say he was shot, or committed suicide… others think that he fell to his death from the cliffs, or was murdered by Cattle Rustlers or a Navajo…his death is a mystery; we will never know what really happened. But through his writings and artwork we find that he still lives.
“Alone I shoulder the sky and hurl my defiance and
shout the song of the conqueror to the four winds,
earth, sea, sun, moon and stars. I live!” ~ Everett Ruess
“I thought that there were two rules in life – never
count the cost, and never do anything unless you can
do it wholeheartedly. Now is the time to live.” ~ Everett Ruess