Posted by Jayson Castillo, Video Coordinator for Team RICONN
It always struck me how upset people get– how tense their body language becomes, how their face turns an awful look of discomfort, how their entire physiological response is discomfort when you tell them you want the world to be a greener, healthier place where public interest and welfare supersede the pursuit of wealth and American corporatism. I never understood the apprehension or the anger in people’s responses to ideas such as conservation and renewable energy (I have my ideas but it’s mostly just speculation without real concrete evidence).
With that being said I want to admit that I never really considered myself to be one of those neurotically green, sustainability-promoting, in your face, borderline paranoid-sounding activist-people. In fact, I was typically the one being screamed at by those people to change the way I did things. The truth is many of the changes that I did eventually incorporate into my life for the sake of reducing my carbon footprint came not as a consequence of any single critical experience, but rather from a series of events. I wasn’t just a recycling, vegetarian, sustainability-promoting hippy over night, I grew to become one through the clashing of many experiences; through a process and journey of personal growth wherein I slowly opened my eyes to the world.
I remember the response I received from my brothers when I told them how I would be spending my time this summer. I told them that I was going to bike around New England with a group of strangers, stopping in towns along a bike tour-esque route and promoting sustainability while volunteering and doing community service. I told them that I would be sleeping on church floors for approximately 9 weeks and that I would be biking somewhere around 600 miles in total. They gave me the typical sigh that I’m used to receiving by now, the “why are you doing this” kind of sigh. Or the “stop wasting your time” or “get your head out of the clouds” kind of responses that beg for me to stop moving around and settle in, get a job and be normal if only just to try it.
Now, almost a month and two towns into the program, I find myself just settling in and acclimating to the traumatic, immersive shift in lifestyle that involves giving up the American comforts and conveniences I’m used to. Little things I never realized I was spoiled about, simple things like clean socks now seem like an extreme Western luxury. I’ve grown to see just how little I can live off of and still live happily. I’ve come to explore some limits and to push myself closer to living my values. Slowly but surely, I’m becoming further rooted in my conviction that people are so much more worthwhile and worth investing in than any given material possession.
As a person who very recently believed that most of us in this country live apathetically and without passion, I’m coming to find that I was wrong at least in part. There are plenty of people out there whom live their lives in pursuit of fulfillment and happiness. We as a team have met these people– whether it was Sheila Dormody, the long time director of
Clean Water Action in Providence and the city’s first Sustainability Director, or Donald Hoyle, a retired clergyman of the United Methodist church who in his retirement has devoted the rest of his life to converting his house into a zero output home and to organizing his community to fight corporate energy interest and promoting sustainability.
In the past couple of weeks, my teammates and I have had so many different types of conversations with complete strangers who are more than willing to express their interests and passions for the work they commit themselves to. I personally have had conversations about everything from social entrepreneurship to co-op owned grocery stores, to bike-recycling programs, to construction of the East Coast Greenway, to refugee programs, to community gardening, to social inequality and justice, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The best example of an unexpected eye opening conversation I’ve had lately was with a member of the University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners community garden in downtown Providence, Aaron, who happened to stop by to tend to his plot. A couple of my teammates and I couldn’t help but get sucked into a thirty-minute conversation with Aaron about everything from his tricked out drip irrigation to 15th century Italian-Renaissance murals. He was incredible; his wide scope of life experience and his command of the subject matter of which he spoke were truly inspirational.
Throughout my travels in New England, along the coast I call home, I am learning so much. There are so many invaluable lessons to be learned that I wish I could better catalog them all and share them with the rest of the Climate Summer teams. I’m sure that in a way many of the Climate Summer riders throughout New England feel that way. Like we’re having all these experiences and that sometimes words just don’t do those small incredible lapsing moments any justice at all.