CCLR was privileged to host Jackie Ochoa as our summer intern this year. Jackie joined CCLR through the Achieve Program, a fantastic organization with which CCLR has had a long and productive partnership. During her time at CCLR, Jackie worked with us on communications and social media. She conducted interviews, gave an interview, completed several research projects, and helped put CCLR on Twitter (follow us @LandRecycling) and Instagram (find us at landrecycling).
We learned so much from working with Jackie, and we’re glad that she learned many things during her time at CCLR, as well. Jackie is heading off to Lawrence University next month, and we wish her the best in all her future endeavors and look forward to seeing how she decides to apply her many talents. Below is a blog post with some parting thoughts from Jackie about humans’ relationship with the planet, the environmental impacts of industrial waste, and the significance of her summer with CCLR.
Parting Thoughts From a CCLR Intern
By Jackie Ochoa, CCLR Intern
Chief Seattle once said: “The earth does not belong to us, we belong to the earth.” Personally, this quote has resonated with me since I began my journey as an intern at CCLR. Before I began my internship, I had never given much thought to just how great of an impact humans have made on our planet. Upon beginning my internship, I was able to engage in group meetings and was given a glimpse of the meticulous planning that goes behind revitalizing land in a manner that ensures the health of both the community and the environment. I immersed myself in articles ranging from the theory of mental maps to China’s dangerous unregulated dumpsites, but I was particularly drawn to an article with stunning satellite images showing how human activity is changing the face of our planet. As I observed in awe the aesthetically pleasing images of industrial buildings in South Korea and the vibrant waste pond in Louisiana, I literally and figuratively found myself being exposed to the bigger picture I had lost sight of: the long-term damage being caused to our planet by humans. After having scrolled through the numerous beautiful satellite images, I reflected on how so many people are not exposed to the “bigger picture” either, and how it is not often that we take the time to consider the detrimental effects even our everyday technology such as cars, cell-phones and other electronic devices can potentially have on our environment, though they are also beneficial. These satellite images were no longer just satellite images to me, but a striking portrayal of the realities of industrial and waste systems, the incredible impact humankind has made on Earth, and the urgent need to cast a light on environmental issues.
In a sense, the deceiving beauty in these images serves as a metaphor for the lack of perspective humans often have when it comes to environmental issues. While browsing those satellite images, I was particularly intrigued by the image of the aluminum waste pond in Louisiana containing red mud. At first glance, the image appeared as if it were a beautiful painting. However, after reading the photo’s description, I contemplated what this type of waste could mean for our planet, and conducted a bit of research to find out. The results were horrifying— red mud spills have already occurred. In 2010, a red mud spill flooded the village of Kolontár and the town of Devecser in Hungary, leaving 10 people dead and 150 people injured. In the images shown, there were various dead animals, houses and cars submerged in the red mud, and devastated families helplessly observing the damage done to their homes. As I continued to browse through the horrific images of this disaster, I asked myself two questions: How do we avoid harming our environment in these ways when aluminum, along with many other materials are in such high demand? If harm to our environment through the manufacturing and waste processes is inevitable, is attempting to protect our environment a lost cause?
The answer to the last question, in my opinion, is not at all. What needs to happen, however, is the spreading of awareness of what is going on in our environment, which is why I find organizations such as CCLR to be so important: they understand the needs of communities and recycle land that has already been used in a manner that respects our earth and the desires of the community. They also spread awareness of the environmental issues that can come from improper utilization of land. As our earth continues to face inevitable environmental problems, it is vital that we have groups of people with strong moral values and a vision of leaving our planet better than we found it. CCLR is aware that “we belong to the earth” and acts accordingly through their service and by making their best effort to protect our earth in order to build a better future for the next generations to come. As beings who belong to this earth, we may not be able to completely end global climate change and pollution, but by educating ourselves on these issues and being more conscious of our day-to-day choices, we are one step closer to creating change. If humans have enough power to harm the balance of our earth, we have just as much power to improve it.
Published July 28, 2015
Photo Credit: South Bay Salt Ponds, Palo Alto, CA | 37°28'59.67"N : 122° 0'43.85"W | GoogleEarth capture by Emma Leonard, Program Associate, Center for Creative Land Recycling (Inspired by Daily Overview)