As Climate Summer 2014 comes to a close, I’ve begun to reflect on my experience of the past two and a half months. Specifically, I’ve wondered which lessons from this summer I will take with me after this program ends. In a way, such reflection assuages my feelings of sadness and bitter-sweetness that my time as a Better Future Project intern is ending. It allows me to feel as though my experience isn’t ending the moment August 16 rolls around. Instead, it will continue with me, long after I put my bike in my dusty garage and unpack my Climate Summer shirts, mess kit, and sleeping bag.
One thing I will certainly take with me is the value of minimalism. For the past ten weeks or so, my fellow riders and I have been living in conditions that most Americans would find difficult.
“What do you mean you’re only taking two shirts with you for a summer?” my friend Meggie
asked me after I described to her some of the peculiarities of Climate Summer.
“It’s not a big deal,” I said offhandedly, doing my best to conceal my own anxieties regarding my future abdication of luxuries that most of us in our society take for granted – regular access to showers, for instance.
The truth is, I wasn’t so sure how I would handle giving up many of the creature comforts to which I have become habituated. And as I write this, having properly showered once in the past two weeks, I find my previous nervousness laughable. Not only has my experience of giving up so much been remarkably easy, it’s been downright joyful. When you are “deprived” of so much, you appreciate the little things so much more. Having been relegated to sleeping primarily on the floor for many of the past several weeks, the pastor who tells us that his or her church has couches on which we can sleep induces so much happiness. When a gracious member of a congregation offers
showers and a laundry machine and dryer to us (I’m looking at you, John Flaherty of Slatersville Congregational Church!), we appreciate the feeling of cleanliness so much more. Paradoxically, the less I seem to have, the happier I seem to become.
The value of minimalism is a lesson I definitely hope – and expect – to take with me after I depart home. Knowing that this program will continue to impact my life, in more ways than one, comforts me in the face of the recognition that I will soon cease biking around New England, traveling to communities to fight fossil fuel infrastructure projects.
And that’s a really good feeling.