Our Living World is Dying
Stacey Worman, 2006-2007 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellow
Date: September 28, 2006
To: Undisclosed recipients
Re: Close Together, Worlds Apart.
I've only briefly mentioned "what's been going on" since I returned to land, exactly one month ago today (when I think about it like that, it just seems plain crazy). But as I mentioned, I've been traveling about Australia through a volunteer network called Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOFing), which was established in 1981 to promote the organic and sustainable farming movement which was just beginning to gather momentum. In exchange for helping hands, volunteers are exposed to people practicing alternative living, self-sufficiency, and sustainable agriculture.
WWOOFing about Australia has been the experience of a lifetime all on its' own.
Many of my days have been filled with sweaty work (as the summer is slipping away back home, it is coming full-speed-ahead to the tropics!). Despite the fact that I now have my degree, I'm still a firm believer that a nice dose of manual labor now and again does everyone a whole lot of good. And having earned them, it makes life's most basic luxuries (water, food, and showers) just that much sweeter. As I've worked alongside various individuals and as I've lived inside their homes, I've engaged in many thought provoking conversations. And never have I realized just how many different things they simply do not cover in school (or in our country, for that matter). At the day's end, I've found myself turning in early to have that 'I'm exhausted, hit the pillow, I'm out and the roof could collapse on top of me and I'd never even know it' kind of sleep.
I guess the most accurate description of what I've been doing for the last month is 'window shopping'. As I've been meeting different people and experiencing their lifestyles...I'm developing a clearer image of what kind of person I want to be and what type of life I want to lead. So I've been busily collecting these 'souvenirs', but not those silly little tangible things that get thrown out years down the road anyways. And when I 'unpack' them from my 'suitcase' upon my return, they'll live in me and be the only reminder I need of who I met and what I did.
I could tell you about all sorts of stuff, but much of it probably wouldn't make sense. Instead, I'll just share with you a couple of insights I've had over this past month...(take them or leave them).
For starters, I've realized how taking care of your own health is inextricably bound to taking care of our planet. I've felt connected and nourished by the Earth in an entirely new way, as nothing compares to a dinner fresh from the garden. And while I've eaten vegetables religiously for some-odd years, it only took one bite for me to realize that I had never actually eaten a real carrot or a real tomato before. In the city, there seems to be a total disconnect between what we eat and where it comes from. But I now know how chickens should live, how much milk a cow should produce, and how fresh fruit should appear. And if you thought I was bad before, the time I spend in grocery stores now has increased nearly 10-fold, as I find the hunt for real food a truly fascinating endeavor.
I've continuously been finding myself in worlds that are polar opposites. With the highest per capita pollution rate in the world, no matter how much WWOOFing I do, I simply cannot escape the majority of Australians who live in a westernized, modernized, and industrialized world...But each time I cross the line from one world to the other, I find myself noticing just a little bit more about the other. I find myself having a heightened awareness for everything. For example, I read somewhere that the average person is exposed to 3,000 advertisements a day – and only now that I've started really looking, have I really started seeing it. I've been into various malls for 'fun'. Haven't really gone to them for ages...and....I've certainly never been in them which these eyes. But it sure makes me realize how less is so much more.
Returning to the cities has been an extremely valuable part of this month. It allows me to keep the "real" world in sight. It allows me to realize how the majority of westerners live. It gives me perspective; the one and only thing I can not afford to lose. And despite how it might sound, I'm not trying to pass any judgments and many of these things I've observed are obviously generalizations...but it has been interesting to walk the line between these two worlds....
The sun shines on both: but one rejoices because it means power and the other curses because it is hot. The rain falls on both: one world rejoices because it means water to drink and the other curses because clothing gets wet. Each world has everything; in one world, everything seems to serve a purpose and in the other, everything seems to cause a problem...
And depending on where I am, I notice it in myself too. Which is indeed quite troubling...
But I find the fact that I can quickly enter either world hopeful. It's proof that, no matter where I seem to be, the gap between them isn't that wide. It is a matter of me choosing which world I wish to be a part of...and snap...I can be there that very same day.
I'm getting my hands dirty with something else right now. And once I get myself settled, I'll fill you in some more.
This email has been written for a few days and today I trekked around the city searching for a place to plug my laptop into the internet. I followed every possible lead, but after walking for five hours in the midday tropical sun....in search of a "regular" internet café (or at least one with a computer modern enough to plug my flash drive into)...I came up empty handed.
And who would have guessed it!?! My moment of resignation came after I walked a mile to the McDonald's because some receptionist in some hotel told me that she's noticed that they have a "wireless hotspot" there. And when that last resort failed...I realized that I had hit rock bottom. I slapped myself across the face and pulled myself together....
Eye-ye-eye! Where am I? Well, as today seemed to illustrate....it looks like I'm finally in an Australian city not used to catering to tourists....Sigh...
(That was a sigh of relief)
It's now way past my bedtime and I find myself retyping this message onto the only computer at this hostel. There are only four of us here, but I've had to wait all night to get on this machine. And of course, besides trying my patience....enduring the wait has been an interesting experiment for my inner economist. This case study is a perfect example of how, when the marginal cost of an additional consumption unit is zero ($4 buys you the 'right' to use it 'whenever, for however long') people 'exploit' that resource, without even considering everyone/anyone else.
No one is behind me, but I've done my bit and so I'm signing off....
But look for (or ignore!) the follow up which is coming shortly....