I wondered if anyone read this article in The Atlantic?

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google

I was especially interested in Lowell’s thoughts on this article…Lowell are you out there?

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This is my first time ever using a blog, and I’ve never been tempted to do so before, but after the amazing week with all of you, I suppose this is one way (assuming you check the blog!) to continue sharing our insights, our struggles – our stories. 

When my group agreed to do our project on bottled water, I thought, “Yeah, well, that’s important, but can’t we do something bigger?  Can’t we push ourselves into unknown and uncomfortable territory in the spirit of gaining new insights through collaborative brainstorming?”  

Well, as usual, I do not have everything figured out, and I am continually seeing the benefits of choosing this topic.  The most direct and specific benefit is a synchronistic moment I had this morning with my boss, who asked me, “Joanna, do you know anything about plastic water bottles, the different kinds out there, their toxicity, and the alternatives?” 

“Well, Mr. Davies, as a matter of fact, I do.  I just happened to be part of a presentation on this topic not even a week ago.”  My recent knowledge and experience gave me the confidence to tell him right away that the bottles we were selling in our gift shop are not safe for re-use.  He asked me if I could send him a report on what’s out there and what the safe alternatives are.  Amazing.  I did that, and now we’re in a position to rid PET and BPA bottles completely.  Amazing.  Not only that, but I had zero difficulty in convincing him to use tap water (with a carbon filter if one so desires) at our workshops and other events.  Wow.  I just can’t believe it.  Amazing. 

I know I spent much of the workshop complaining about Arkansas and my job.  I don’t know if this is where I’ll be in the long-term, but I do know that today was a good day – an unexpectedly good day, and this I am so grateful for and humbled by.  I hope others continue sharing their stories.  We have so much to learn from each other.  Thank you.

So I turned in my notice, and as I expected, I was walked to the door –  Not given a chance to say goodbye to folks. Papers were put in my hand, my security badge was collected and I found myself heading home, long before lunch.  So I stopped by the Y and took a swim as water usually helps me collect my thoughts.  I mostly thought about all the inspiring folks I had just spent a week with in Maine.

Today was spent with the faculty at The Galloway School where I will be teaching.  What a remarkable group of folks.  They would have enjoyed the Climate Change conference.  I met two people who had read Ecology of a Cracker Childhood – how cool is that?  It’s going to be nice to be with a group of committed, thoughtful people.  There are many green initiatives already underway at Galloway.  And we are all encouraged to implement more.

My conversations today reminded me of the kinds of conversations that took place in Maine (which is to say meaningful, thought-provoking and deep).  I think the conference must have been a warm-up for all this.  I hope everyone is continuing the conversation – wherever you are.

Deep conversations

Deep conversations

Making life changes to reflect your commitment to the environment is a process, much like Nalini’s process of scaling the trees.  It takes a moment to get comfortable, figuring out the support system. Can you trust it?  Will the strength of the rope support you?  What exactly is keeping me from falling to my death?  You have guides around you, offering good advice.  Some of the advice sinks in while other content fails to enter your mind.  Your brain can process only so much.  Remember to breathe!  You turn over to the old ways and slide into your comfort zone – doing the things you’ve always done.  Slowly though, enough information sinks in.  You start moving forward.  You gain confidence.  It takes effort, strength and dedication, but you see your progress.  You get some rope burns, but you learn as you go.  The coaching continues from around you and you absorb more and more.  Then you reach a high point, and your perspective begins to change.  You see things differently.  The light on the leaves glows differently.  The way the birds land on a branch, more graceful than you realized when you were below.  The sounds are different too.  There is less distraction and more calmness.  Then you’re ready for the next leg of your journey…

Here’s a photo of our friend Uwe rising into the canopy.  Special thanks to Nalini for making this experience possible.  See you in the treetops…

Uwe going up

Uwe going up

Education and Wonder: As I ponder my learnings over the past four days, I am aware of new meanings and awarenesses coming to me from the experiences of wonder while climbing  trees, writing spontaneously about nature, interacting about climate change, and questioning unbridled technology.  Yet, it is often the informal conversations, the DVD’s, the social hours that inspires me as others share the great work that is being done by others in this workshop.  My mentor Thomas Berry often states, “The Universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.”  It is the communion with heart, mind, hands and spirit with others, both human and more-than-human that keeps me hopeful. Yet, it is in the grief over the losses that spurs my actions in working with high school young women and pre-service teachers, not to mention my faith community and other environmental groups.

Last night, I dreamt that a bald eagle picked up a llama and flew away with it, and then proceeded to eat it in mid-air.

I think this is a sign. We will know that the bald eagle has made it’s terrific comeback when llama farmers begin to hide their livestock in a barn, the same way I did with my goats when I was eleven and read about the chupacabra. The National Geographic channel is not for the faint of heart.

Over my twenty years I have had the opportunity to spend many a week inside a residence hall with other peers. Never before have I seen a group come together as quickly and cohesively as this one has. In fact, right now, they have commandeered the living room to watch a movie on environmental lawn care. I am expecting slumber parties any day now.

This is fortuitous, given the theme of today’s special session with Chip Blake, the Director of the Orion Society and editor of Orion Magazine. Many times Blake circled back to the theme of communication and connection. Without a way for people to create a personal connection to the event they are individually experiencing, there is no way for us to move forward as a whole.

When I joined the conference planning stage, I remember how the need for individuals to connect through their experiences and to provide a forum for them to communicate these moments was a central focus. The desire to provide a time and place for participants to form bonds was prevalent in nearly every discussion that took place over the course of three months.

The field of education is a spectacular stage for all those involved to express their feelings, frustrations, experiences. It is, as stated earlier tonight, the common denominator in everything. Education provides us a way to connect, a way for us all to discover a personal reason for being.

“That,” to quote Chip Blake. “is why we’re all here.”

Day 1
I forgot how hot it is on the east coast in the summer. I’m not sure that this can be attributed to climate change or global warming or the climate change crisis but I think I need to find a pond to swim in soon.

Tonight we start our journey together–about 30 people who’d like to find ways to reach more people with information and (I hope) hope about climate change. I’m looking forward to meeting the group and pulling out of my own work project enough to stop worrying about deadlines and emails and obligations.

I’m coming with a lot of questions about the role that education plays in a huge global problem like this. It seems that the line between science, education and advocacy is very thin. How can we know about the changes that are happening and not do everything we can in our own lives and encourage people to make changes in theirs too. One of the biggest challenges (ok most frustrating aspects) is that there seems to be so little we can do, it is so easy to feel discouraged and tune out. I’ve changed my light bulbs and wash in cold water but I still don’t have a carbon tax option! If I feel that way and the leaders at my museum feel that it’s hopeless, what can we possibly offer to our visitors to help them navigate this–the largest challenge our culture has faced for a century or more?

Well off to find a pond–the computer and my brain are getting overheated.

JSR