Where did you study abroad, live, or have lived that you would like to share for the Sustainability Project? I studied abroad in Rio de Janeiro, have traveled extensively all throughout Europe, traveled to South Africa, a small island off Honduras, wandered through a few countries in the Middle East and Egypt, and recently returned home from a three week adventure in East Africa. As could be expected, all of these countries’ programs and attitudes towards sustainability varied as much as their respective landscapes and cultures. For the purpose of this blog entry I will speak mostly to my experience in Rio de Janeiro, a stunningly beautiful city (think mountain-like hillside meeting tropical beach with a city fit snuggly in-between) located in a country blessed with abundant natural resources.
What do you think was/is the most exciting thing about this location?
The music! The fruits! The dancing! The colors!! Of the water, of the people, of the flowers and the trees…The hustle and bustle of metropolitan people mixed with the flavor of Brazil.
Was there anything related to environmental awareness or sustainability worth sharing?
Every day we would hop on the subway which would take us to the other side of the city for class. It was a breeze even though the tube would get stifling hot and crowed during the height of work-day commute. There were plenty of busses as well; though we called them “death coaches” because the roads are incredibly dangerous due to lack of traffic law enforcement. Unfortunately the quality of air in Rio is often poor and I developed temporary asthma while training for a marathon while I was down there. I would run every day along the water, which unfortunately ran alongside a frequently used highway. The cars spewed exhaust and I rarely saw a vehicle which would pass an emissions test in the USA.
On the flip side, every day I would walk to a fresh juice stand (they could be found on every corner) which would have every Amazonian fruit imaginable which they received daily. The grocery store only carried what was in season. This aspect of sustainability is very important though not often thought about or discussed. The toll importing mangos or pineapples to Seattle takes on the environment is enormous. In Rio, people ate what was grown, raised and cured locally. This seems to be the norm in most developing nations. Perhaps this is due to local palates, though I am more inclined to assume it is because imported foods are much more expensive than local products. Local produce stands and grocery corner shops only carry what is sourced from nearby. (Of course exceptions of this always exist…I was just in Ethiopia and found myself frantically searching for chocolate bars. While they had been abundant in Kenya (presumably thanks to colonization) they were nowhere to be found in Ethiopia. I was finally able to locate at the “import grocery store” where the shelves were stocked full of Italian balsamic vinegar, Russian Vodka and Cadbury chocolate bars)
Is there one thing that you do in your daily life that can be attributed to sustainability?
My little sister does a much better job paying attention to her carbon footprint and living a sustainable lifestyle than I do. I do my best, though often times will drive to my evening restaurant job in order to avoid taking the bus late at night for safety reasons. I try to bike to closer destinations or if I don’t mind getting a little sweaty. Composting and trash sorting is the easiest thing I have programmed myself to do automatically. All it took was training myself to think about where to place my old Starbuck’s cup or banana peel. I know pick my roommates shampoo bottles out of the trash, remove the caps and place them in the recycling, autopilot style.
Why do you think Sustainability or environmental awareness is so important to our generation?
It is important because the livelihood of future generations depends on it. In my opinion, at the most basic level we all must acknowledge that the Earth is only so large, and only contains so many natural resources which we cannot renew at the rate our world population is growing, if at all. If we deplete them at the rate which we are now, I fear for what kind of environment our grandchildren will be living in. It’s easy to forget this though; we live in a bubble in the PNW surrounded by abundant wildlife and stunning natural resources. Its only once we see how the rest of the world lives (both for the better and the worst) will we understand how much we actually consume, where it comes from, and how much less we really need to live happy and productive lives.
What degree, have you received or are currently seeking, or what field of work are you looking to jump into? I am currently finishing up my degree in International Studies at the Jackson School at University of Washington, Seattle.
If you could travel to one place in the world where would it be, and why?
I am DYING to go to Cuba, The music, the dancing, the food (if you have not been to Paseo in Fremont…stop reading this and go immediately!!!) the culture and most of all the history. It is so different from most places in the world. And it’s sunny, I love to snorkel and swim in warm water.
If you could be one animal in the world what would it be?
A dolphin! Snorkeling and swimming all day in crystal clear waters!? Yes please!
Officials reported this past weekend (June 19th) that a flaming balloon was the cause for igniting a forest fire in one of Rio De Janeiro’s national forests in the downtown former capital of Brazil. The Tijuca Forest is a hand planted rain forest and is one of the largest urban forests in the world, stretching almost 13 miles in diameter. Much of the plant and wildlife that call the habitat home, are threatened by extinction. The city has set a hefty fine on lighting balloons and a reward for anyone that has information on the culprit.