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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

GreenSpace: Sustainability Abroad

<st term I studied abroad in Central America. Before the trip, I’d sometimes tried to think about sustainability as more than just “eco-friendly” or “going green.” But it wasn’t until my stay in El Salvador that I truly learned what sustainability means in the most basic sense: survival.

El Salvador is among the most environmentally vulnerable countries in the world, with 98% of its population subject to natural disaster. While my group was there, that disaster was a flood that lasted 10 days, displaced more than 50,00 people, and destroyed 70% of the country’s bean crops. In a country where a lot of the population lives in unstable housing that is easily destroyed by heavy rains, and where multinational corporations have constructed hydroelectric dams that don’t necessarily take into account the well-being of local communities, a flood is as much a man-made disaster as it is a natural one.

When my group met with “sustainability” organizations in El Salvador, they didn’t work on issues like recycling or composting. They worked on clean water access, and opposing harmful dam and mining projects. Sustainability, to them, literally meant being able to sustain oneself.

Since my time abroad, I’ve tried to come up with my own personal definition of sustainability. Have you had an off-campus experience that changed the way you thought about sustainability? There will be an OCS  sustainability panel on Tuesday, February 21st, and we’re looking for students to share their stories. Contact henryl for more information.

— Laura Henry ‘13, Sustainability Assistant

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