Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Introduction to a personal climate journal

For my first post, I had a grand scheme in mind: one morning this week, when campus was stooped under a drizzle and dreary as all hell: just the way I like my mornings: I borrowed a tape recorder, filled a Nalgene bottle, and set out to search for the source of College Creek, along the way making pithy observations about the conflict of man vs. nature and man’s surprising victories.

I was disappointed fast. College Creek, which winds through campus and widens at Lakum Duckum, is a spring-fed offshoot of Walla Walla’s more glamorous Mill Creek. I envisioned said spring to be located somewhere outside of town, like the source of Mill Creek itself; unfortunately, the source of College Creek is located in a backyard on Stanton Avenue, visible from some windows in Lyman House’s A-section. The only difficulty involved in finding it would be getting on and off somebody’s property without a trespassing charge.

The Romantic view that wilderness is a salve for all wounds is shared by everyone from Mary Shelley: in Frankenstein, if there’s one thing Victor enjoys more than necromancy, it’s faffing about in the mountains behind his Geneva home: to John Muir to at least a few Whitties, myself hesitantly counted among that number. Landscape is part of my personal environmental philosophy. The fight for the Earth, however, can often seem staggeringly immense, and a personal struggle sometimes appears far removed from the whole: just as College Creek must drain through two rivers before touching the mighty Columbia, and three to reach the ocean.

Metaphors aside, it can be hard to form a conception of environmental issues when the “environment” as we know it is distant from our daily lives. Programs such as Semester in the West are designed to thrust us directly into the center of the fight, but unless we’re lucky enough to get into one of them, our days largely play out amongst the lawns of an insulated campus. It is here where one must ponder where one truly stands in relation to the Earth, and why they stand there.

As a member of the Campus Climate Challenge (CCC): under whose auspices I took up the mantle of this blog: I find myself asking this question more than any other. During an early meeting this semester, we sat around a table discussing the reason we wanted to take action for the planet. The diversity was startling: some people had a favorite spot where they had grown up, a place they wanted to defend. Some were outraged because they had learned that the poor and certain minority groups are often hit harder by pollution, and wanted to advance the concept known as environmental justice.

When we get things done: such as opening a composting shed behind Jewett Dining Hall that increased the campus worm/student ratio to around 42:1: we in CCC feel on top of the world; there is, however, always the question of how to reconcile our personal philosophies with a far greater whole. What are we really fighting to defend: the wilderness, flora and fauna, our way of life? Do our personal actions affect the whole of the movement? How do we keep from getting discouraged by the sheer size of the biggest fight the world has ever known?

I’m writing this blog to answer those questions. In every post, I’ll shine a spotlight on some person or event close to home that represents a convergence of the global battle that will determine the fate of this planet and the deeply personal struggle to make sure the things we do as individuals are pushing it the right way. I’ll profile different philosophies and work to show them to readers.

In the end, I seek to do my part by encouraging others not to despair in doing theirs. Like College Creek, whose water provides beauty and solace to Whitman students before emptying towards the grand Pacific, we as environmentalists must exist in two different spheres: and not be afraid to determine the future of both.

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