Scratch Unto My Back as You Would Have Me Scratch Unto Thine Own


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To the Editor:

I am writing to tell you about an amazing experience I had during fall semester of last year. I lived in Living and Learning in the suite called “Building Healthy and Sustainable Communities.” A major element of this L/L program in the fall semester included taking a course called Sustainable Community

Development (CDAE 102), taught by Richard Schramm. Coming into the class, I thought I already knew all there was to know about sustainable communities

because I was raised in Vermont by environmentally conscious parents, but I had

no idea how wrong I was.

We are living in a world plagued with problems. Humans have caused major

degradation to the natural environment by polluting nature and stripping it of its vitality by way of non-conscientious development, food production and product manufacturing. The world economy is at disequilibrium marked by major international corporations that monopolize the markets and by the dwindling recognition of importance for small and local market circles.

Consequently, the quality of life for many humans has been degraded. After all, although the world population has grown exponentially in the last two centuries, care has not. A small minority of people is living in gross excess while the basic needs of many human beings are not being met. Life has been sucked of its pure joys.

The world’s once-varied cultural traditions have been replaced by the false-global-consumer adrenaline burst caused only by acts of invisible greed.

In short, there is a black cloud of death and destruction looming on the horizon, and if no changes are made, this black cloud will be over us in no time.

Under these urgent auspices, the CDAE course explored ways through which

humankind might change its lifestyle by choosing a more sustainable path. The course’s objectives were to provide students with methods for solving “complex, multidisciplinary problems like community development” and for helping

communities achieve their goals in a sustainable fashion.

The Sustainable Community Development course dealt with topics such as urban planning, ecological design, sustainable business, local economic self-sufficiency, sustainable consumption, sense of community and activism.

Students were encouraged to assume a holistic view when considering the world’s problems. In other words, we learned that although humans tend to break down the world’s tangled web of injustices into a few simplified questions, we must see the world’s problems in their greater context in order to more effectively solve them. From what I have read and learned in the course, it has become evident to me that what we need to start working towards is a sustainable world, an undertaking that must be maintained by a long-term dynamic balance among environmental quality, social equity and economic vitality in which the all-around health of individual communities is ensured for future generations.

The course exposed me to new ideas and ignited in me an inspiration to contribute to the urgent cause of “saving the world.” I immediately wanted to spread the knowledge that I had gained and to make sure that everyone else with whom I share this earth cared as much about its destiny as I did . For me, the door has now just been opened. I would like for that door to be open to all other UVM students as well.

In CDAE 102, we were taught that the way to bring about a desired change is to

take action. So here I go.

I see all these horrible things happening to the world and at the same time I see apathy in the eyes of many of my fellow students, my fellow victims. What cheers me up, though, is that I think this look of apathy might come from a

simple lack of awareness.

Like I said earlier, I thought I knew what was going on before taking CDAE 102, but in fact I had only a tiny inkling. So no wonder many people adopt a facade of indifference or even resentment when approached by sustainable living enthusiasts (often grouped under the label of leftists); the approached don’t know what’s really at stake!

I believe that if everyone really knew about and understood the dark path down which humanity is currently headed that it would be impossible for them not to be worried. So that is good news. We just need to make them aware! That’s all. Easy as that!

The first step towards achieving the ever-present goal of a sustainable world

is to implement education. If we are trying to promote a set of changes that will affect every single living being on the surface of the planet, we’re going to need the help of every single living being on the surface of the planet.

But how can they help us if they don’t know the importance of our goals? How could so many students graduate from the University of Vermont without having gained the fundamental knowledge that I gained in CDAE 102 and still be expected to be engaged citizens who are aware of the positive and negative impacts that they have on the planet and on the rest of humankind?

Given that Vermont’s national renowned for being a leader in the promotion of

healthy environmental practices and given that the University of Vermont has a

reputation for being an environmentally conscious institution, I think it would suit the university to go back to its roots and take a little action of its own. I would like to propose that a class in sustainable community living/development be included in the distribution requirements for all

colleges at the University of Vermont.

That might sound like a lot to ask, but here is my reasoning: You and I along with a select group of people around the world know that humanity needs to change its projected course of flight and search out more sustainable solutions or else it will face the pain of severe consequences. If every student who graduated from this university knew such realism, perhaps a positive change in direction would come about more quickly and gracefully.

Think-just one semester here at UVM and my eyes had already been so widely opened. I care so much about our world and the people in it. Looking around me at the beauty of this place, I am moved. Should not everyone in the present and all times to come be able to feel the same love for the planet? Should not

each individual have the right and ability to be filled with the same joy as I?

If all UVM graduates could leave here with the same sense of urgency that I now feel, perhaps one day our world will be a just and joyful place to live for all of its inhabitants. Please consider my proposition.