Guest Post: Xander, our new intern

Editors Note: I am humbled by the words below from our new intern, Xander. I think this is a great, fresh perspective from an American 21 year-old. It shows the first stages of a transformative learning process: a ‘cognitive crisis’ or ‘disorienting dilemma.’ Change is good, but not easy. – Estwing
Eco School Blog Post #1
My first inclination when hearing about my internship placement at the Eco School was something along the lines of surprise and excitement. What is more exciting than eco-thrifty renovation, manual labor, and gardening? Since my work started, my excitement has grown due to what I have learned so far, what I will continue to learn, and how it can be applied back home in America (which is the most exciting aspect).
I come from Reelsville, Indiana, USA. There’s a great chance that you will never meet a person from Reelsville, that’s how small it is. I grew up in the spectacular Indiana bush. I am a friend to manual labor, especially yard chores, building porches, and putting up walls. At Earlham College, I am close to finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Biology.
No more than seven weeks ago I was destined to achieve a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, teach at the university level, and conduct independent research. A couple of years before now, I had mapped out my educational trajectory for the years to come and the potential resume-builders necessary to meet this goal. It was not until last week that these plans began to dissolve as a result of my disillusionment in biology and science as a whole.
My sole intention with this career was to end the dichotomy between humans and nature, better described as an “us” and “them” relationship, in light of the current and global environmental crises. For me, it is hard to explain why I ever decided that scientific research specifically would be able to do such a thing. On the whole, scientific research very rarely provides solutions to problems such as global climate change or over-exploitation of natural resources insofar as it is strictly research intensive, aiding little to the betterment of the human-nature relationship.
At this stage in my life, I am uncertain about how I wish to take my first steps into the real world. I have been in New Zealand for the past seven weeks on an environmental program that expires in the beginning of May. We’ve been studying the various environmental issues of the country, Māori history and culture, and conservation biology. Among all of these courses and my experiences at the Eco School and in the community, something on this island has influenced my change of heart.
As a matter of fact, it is no easy task to pinpoint the direct causes of my personal development, or dilemma. For instance, it is likely that there are numerous variables in this equation; however, I can only see the product. From what I do know (or what I think I know) is that a major contributing factor is Nelson and the Eco School. I know that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions or point fingers, but the Eco School is the culprit.
Out of my entire curriculum-based educational experience so far, I have never once learned anything as practical as what I have learned at the Eco School in the past three weeks. My time at the Eco School has provided me not only with various lifestyle changes but also the skills and means to provide for a family, a community, and myself. Not only that, but it has given me hope that in the face of forces more powerful than me, namely global climate change and politics, all is not lost. Moreover, where my ideas of scientific research failed my overall goal in life, the mission of the Eco School has prevailed and demonstrates the means for me to meet my goal back in the States.
I know that I haven’t described any of the small projects or tasks that I worked on in the past three weeks. It is not because they are insignificant, it is because they make up a much larger picture that has, to some extent, changed me on a deep and personal level. The work that is being done at the Eco School is inspiring. It goes to show that every person has the potential to make a difference in the community and the world (e.g., think global, act local). And, by community, I mean the social, economic, and environmental aspects. It is in this kind of work that the future is a little brighter for everyone.