IAIA students recently travelled to the 22nd annual Headwaters Conference “Small Steps, Big Stories: Climate Solutions in the Headwaters” at Western State College of Colorado. Chronicle editor Paige Buffington accompanied the group and reports on the event.
We gathered around the table and thought of the ways we would approach the assigned topic. We were asked a question: If you were a resident of Crescent Butte, Colorado, how would you stress to the residents of Gunnison, Colorado, the importance of sustainable living?
We went through the scenarios: What if the climate changed and the economy of our small town crashed because we no longer received the snows that attract tourists? What if the coal mines of Colorado spoiled our ecosystem? What if some natural disaster forced us to work together and come up with a new way of living?
Then, we asked ourselves one last question: Why does it take a natural disaster for people to want to live closer to their environments? To the students in our group, all from IAIA, sustainability was a lesson that had been learned in the early-years of life, a concept that had been engraved in our beings. What if you didn’t have what you have now? If the luxuries of the modern world were taken away from you, would you know what to do?
We listened to the other groups and their proposals. They each mentioned a natural disaster, the tourism industry of Cloudcroft crumbling, and the residents having to lean on those of Gunnison.
We went up to the stage and decided to talk about what we know when it comes to sustainability.
Each of us mentioned the importance of saving water. We learned where water was and how to haul it. We were yelled at when we wasted water. My grandparents used to melt snow in barrels for water in the winters and springs.
Each of us mentioned alternative-heating. My grandparents use to put stones in the fire and take them out and they would keep the small spaces they slept in warm. We used a woodstove. We built and respected fire. We put plastic around our windows so as much heat would stay in our homes as possible.
Each of us mentioned gardens or gardening. My dad and I grew a garden and we talked to the seeds. We learned different methods of growing, where to grow and where not to grow. We took the leftover pieces of vegetables we didn’t use and fed them to the livestock, so they wouldn’t be wasted.
We hoped that our message questioned the belief that a natural disaster would be the only reason to use these teachings, that it helped those in attendance remember that people base their existence on sustainability, that we have a thing or two to learn from each other.