“Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need,” this quote by Theologian Frederick Buechner has driven my inner exploration for the past few months. Through both the fellowship, class, and on my own time, I have tried to know and understand myself. This included recognizing my greatest strengths and limitations, my talents and skills, as well as my passions. Through the fellowship, I learned about how I work with others, how I overcome obstacles, and where my interests truly lie. Although this self-knowledge is incredibly helpful in choosing my path for after graduation, I still have more work discerning which path will make me the happiest while serving my highest good.
In understanding my passions, there are two experiences that come to mind that have driven me towards the field of environmental conservation and sustainability. The first defines the need for more people in those fields, and the second relies on my own work and field experiences to know myself.
After declaring my environmental studies minor, I began to mentally prepare myself for what was coming. Many of my friends are environmental studies or sciences majors and they always say how overwhelmingly depressing the classes can be. Since I had taken classes in anthropology studying violence, genocide, and warfare, as well as studying abject poverty during the fellowship, I felt like I had tackled depressing classes. However, the more I study the environmental catastrophes around the world as well as encroaching climate change devastation, I have realized that nothing else matters.
Studying anthropology, I have learned that I love studying humans, our interactions with each other and our environment, our evolution, and our cultures. However, none of these aspects of humanity will continue if we continue to exploit the earth and its resources as we currently do. I full-heartedly believe in environmental conservation because of its inherent worth, not just in relation to ecological services and potential benefits and uses to humanity. However, there is a significant part of me that wants to prevent the climate calamity before it destroys our culture and humanity’s legacy.
While in the field in Zambia, I regained hope for change and began to feel less overwhelmed. Boniface Haangala, the agroforestry technician at Chikuni Parish Taonga Radio School, created rapid community change. Only one man affected a community of thousands of people and created immense behavior change. Through radio and face-to-face visits, he created fifteen agroforestry gardens and taught hundreds of people about environmental conservation. Boniface inspired me to use my skills to create this type of change all over the world.
I realized that my talents as an anthropologist could be used to change behavior, change culture, and shift the worlds view towards the earth’s resources. I understand behaviors and what influences behavior change from many of my classes; these skills could be applied to a variety of environmental causes. I could either use my skills and understanding of people to convince people to change their behaviors through campaigns and rallies, or I think I could be a good sales person.
Recently I have been considering going into either a green consulting business or sales. There is a wide diversity of opportunity in both of these fields. Within consulting, there are a number of companies that work both in the United States and worldwide. New recruiter companies looking for people who specialize in these fields are taking off. As far as sales, there thousands of up and coming technologies that will revolutionize the planet. Just within the energy sector, companies will need to buy wind, solar, and hydropower. There are also an infinite number of ways to bring nature into cities through urban gardening, sustainable architecture and green roofing. The more I discover that I could do within this sector, the more passionate and excited I feel. It seems to me like the quote, “If you are what you are meant to be, you will set the whole world on fire” by St. Catherine of Siena is true.
Another quote that I identified with is that “People lose the ability to engage with reality; that is a process of dehumanization that may be gradual and silent, but very real” (Nicholas). I believe that this quote applies to both people and the environment. Living in our Santa Clara University bubble, it is easy to lose touch with everyone “out there”. It is also easy to lose touch with nature. When Laura, Jack, and I drove out to Nakabwe, a far away outstation of Chikuni, we witnessed deforestation at its height; charcoal sellers had ravaged the entire hillside of a beautiful valley. I realized that once you have seen how other people live or how the environment is destroyed around the world, it is hard to sit back and not do anything about it.
Understanding how environmental changes impact people is an incredible motivating factor for preventing extensive climate change. Laura and I had the opportunity to get to know our cook, Mrs. Milimo, very well while we lived in Chikuni. She told us stories of her children, her late husband, and her life in Chikuni. Every year she grew corn behind her house; however, the past few years had unpredictable rainfall and a large proportion of her crop failed. As climate change continues, this will happen to millions of people around the world, mostly in developing nations.
Through this fellowship my social imagination has developed into imagining a sustainable future. This future would include clean energy access, better water distribution, and an understanding that the environment is more than just property, but it is essential as provider of all our basic needs. This sustainable future is not perfect; however, if I can do anything to help realize this future I feel as if my vocational discernment will be fulfilled.