First, I’d like to open this blog post with a picture of one of my favorite places on earth:
Since this blog post is dedicated to land, I opened with one of my favorite places on earth, Mount Evans. This is the place where I spent my summers, a few miles down the hill, at a summer camp for two weeks of the entire summer. I looked forward, and even took pleasure in the hikes that we occasionally took to get to Echo Lake, in search of their famous pies (which are delicious, I promise). This is another view that I was familiar with for a majority of my life, and I take pride in associating myself with it.
Both of these images conjure a picture of home, as being a natural oasis. As my best friend has commented, in Denver (and its suburbs), we are quite lucky, because we have the best of both worlds, the rural and urban living environment, both quite close by, so there are things to satisfy both rural and urban folks.
Here is another thing that I associate with home: my other home for another two weeks in the summer, Greeley, Colorado. To enlighten some people who just read that, and went, what in the world is that place? Greeley, Colorado is home to University of Northern Colorado, one of the state’s best school for its education program. It is sort of known as a teacher college. I spent two weeks in my summer learning fun things, but one thing to note was the smell. We all commented about the Greeley smell, from the cows nearby. I never thought about it until my environmental science labs at Dickinson, but those were not just small farms, but feedlots. When it would rain, or be a windy prairie day that Greeley can be, the smell from the feedlots would cover the town with it’s famous “Greeley smell,” or “Greeley perfume.” So, I am in a state that supports feedlot cattle, and some monoculture (some sunflowers, corn fields, etc.).
Carlisle has been my home for almost 3 of the last 4 years, Beijing taking one of the four years while at Dickinson College. Yet, I do not associate myself with Carlisle. Why not? For one, I am not used to seeing so much rain. Denver is nearly a desert, so I see a lot of sunshine, but am not quite used to the rain. Got rainboots my first year, and have never brought them home, for fear of others’ confused gazes at the gawky thing on my feet that is useless except for the few rainy days a year. Yes, I see snow, but snow is much different than rain.
But more importantly, I feel distanced because I do not know all the local ecosystems. I’m always confused, trying to learn the new trees and plants that I do not normally see at home. I always feel like a small child during the fall and springs here, because of the many different fall leaf colors, the big leaf piles, and the blossoms on a magnolia tree that I’ve never seen before. In Denver, I’m familiar with my coniferous forest trees, and feel comforted by that. In my four years, the feeling of alienation from my new environment in Carlisle still is the same, so I have both a feeling of amusement, bewilderment, and alienation from the ecosystem that surrounds me while at Dickinson. Perhaps if I spent enough time, and had classes that made sure I could look and go “ooh, what a pretty magnolia tree.” Then, I could then say, with no hesitation, that I associate with Carlisle, as my home, my bioregion that I could identify with, and not Denver.
While on the subject of land, I’d like to bring the discussion to land itself, and how the food I eat is not really the food I eat.
While I had been on an alternative spring break trip before, to Northern California, as well as taken environmental science labs, this map was my shock factor. While Sandra Steingraber’s Living Downstream and Vandana Shiva’s Soil Not Oil are both valid in the organic model, this map was the point where I knew I wanted to change the cycle of food. As the map shows, the consumer, which should have a larger role in making food decisions, is quite small in comparison with the other webs. When we discussed this map, someone mentioned that he heard that a complicated system like this is actually stable. However, when we all looked at this map, we all were scared: how can we reduced the lines and circles for our carrots? To take this further, how can we achieve organic agriculture when companies like Monsanto claim seed patents on seeds that should be an item with free exchange in the first place?
These ideas have made me think of my original pictures of home, and even about my home itself. My mom works as a pharmacist in a grocery chain. We buy most of our food there, not organic, and thus, we are supporting the entire complicated process. I thought those who shopped at Whole Foods were just picky, and a little crazy. I know that at Dickinson, with the farm, we are trying to reduce the lines somewhat, although not all the food is produced at the farm, or locally.
Yet, in my family, once I go home, it will be hard to convince my parents to try and do a vegetarian meal (since my dad is a pro-meat guy, who wonders where the protein is in a vegetarian diet, and doesn’t quite understand this concept). Also, it will be complicated to buy entirely organics on my family’s food budget. But, I will be going home this summer, and when I do, I often do the grocery shopping and make dinners. So, I will try and educate them on the powers of organic, local, and hope to implement simple changes in my daily behavior. I know that for now, I eat on campus, out of convenience. My budget is not the biggest, but I will try to change my priorities so that if I can buy something organic, I will try to do so. For example, I just bought cage free organic eggs at Giant. It was a few dollars more, but I will try to do so. Also, after doing the toxicity report, I will try and look at Skin Deep’s database, in order to find the more eco-friendly and least carcinogenic solutions, so my toothpaste, deodorant, and other beauty products will not give me the guilt that I am participating in the production of chemicals that do not consider the chemical’s toxic lifecycle or the people whom it affects negatively. This is how I can make food my food, and land my land.