Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reflections of California 2005

3 years ago in 2005, I embarked on a learning journey to Santa Barbara, California for a 6 months stint of student exchange program at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

It changed my life.

Learning about biogeography on the santa barbara mission hills

Yes yes, all exchange students say that but my time at one of the birthplace of environmentalism really spurred me towards environmental action. It taught me a lot about grassroots action, environmental politics of one of the hothouse of global decision making and most of all, the amazing and foreign ecosystem and biodiversity of California. This tropical monkey was involved with comparatively radical groups whom I would gladly call activist. (I would be hard-pressed to be able to truly call anybody in Singapore an activist.) There, I learnt from peers of Garrett Hardin, amazing anthropologists, environmental planners, retirees, ground practitioners and more. I worked with people passionate about transport, learned about chaparral habitats at nature reserves, camped at national parks, swam in a natural lake at freezing conditions and climbed a tree for the first time in my life. I saw my first deer, my first bear, my first cougar, my first whale, my first raccoon, my first possum, my first turkey vulture, my first oreo cookie cow and more! I hugged my first redwood giant. I felt like John Muir when he wrote about the sequoias.

"...Sequoias, kings of their race, growing close together like grass in a meadow, poised their brave domes and spires in the sky, three hundred feet above the ferns and lilies that enameled the ground; towering serene through the long centuries, preaching God's forestry fresh from heaven." - John Muir

Images of Sedgwick

I learnt about sustainable agriculture, organic foods and met Dr Lai Chiu Nan who told me I would be of no help to the cause since I am no farmer. I met Vandana Shiva who scoffed at the fact that I am from Singapore, land of importers and with little care of farmers with none of our own to bring the message closer to home. These and many other reasons led to my current Masters research on the factors influencing environmental behaviour of farmers.

Images from zaca lake retreat

When I first returned from UCSB, I wrote a piece for my NUS Department's website on my reflection of SEP experience. Today, as I was going through my defunct photoblog, I came across the images of these wonderful memories. Inspired, I decide to bring these photos to light again. Perhaps as a reminder to myself of my energy and inspiration I got. I was so driven when I returned, idealistic. Perhaps jaded now and some recharging is needed. This is why people to go retreat! I have thought of doing a similar retreat in Singapore as I had in US but somehow I find the community here not too keen on getting in touch with the airy fairy side of conservation. We had world class speakers and on topics so wide-ranging it was out of this world. Vegan food throughout the whole weekend and camping under the starlight and late winter cold. What wonder. We sang we danced and had fun. I haven't felt so much creative energy in years. Perhaps that's what others would called airy fairy hippie like behaviour but that's what I called recharging!

Alas tis the wonders of blogging. Helps to record down images and memories that may have been otherwise forgotten.

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