Friday, November 16, 2012

Má ég taka mynd af þér?

These are the people of Solheimar. These are the people that teach me íslensku, twirl me around the room, and laugh at me when I butcher their language. They are the reason that I'm able to wake up in the morning even when it is pitch black and bone-numbing cold, knowing Christian will greet me with a huge hug and a kiss and hoping that I will be able to squeeze a smile out of Runar. And when I leave in tólf days, it will be a sjaumst rather than a bless bless.


Blog Post the Last

Many things change in life. One thing that doesn't, however, is the passage of time. Time moves steadily onward, day following day following day. Whenever one starts something new, it feels like it will last forever... but every time, it eventually ends.

I write this to you from the end of the most significant semester of my life. I write this to you because your life, like mine, is finite. I write this to you because no matter who you are or what your situation is, you have things that you need to contribute to the world and things that you need to experience.

As people in a mostly materialism-driven global society, what are we going to do with the unknown amount of finite time that we have left in our lives? Will we follow the culturally approved path for a human being, the standard K-12 to college to graduate school to career to retirement to death model, perhaps with a few spouses or children thrown in for good measure? The lifespan of a person is now nearly as predictable as the lifespan of a similar disposable product, like a paper cup.

I am not, of course, saying that any of those things are bad. Careers, spouses, education, and children are all potential ingredients for a happy, satisfying life.

I am, however, saying that we should start thinking about what we really want out of life. Too often, the standard life path brings with it a sense omnipresent anticipation with no real resolution: we're always waiting for that one thing to happen so that we can finally be complete, finally be happy. We're trying to get to the next grade level, to high school, to college, to grad school, to our first real job, to a promotion, to a stable career, to another promotion, to retirement. We're trying to find a great spouse, trying to have kids, trying to get the kids out of the house, trying to get our marriage back on track, trying to start a new marriage.

We're always waiting. We're always striving. And if we ever get to the point where we can relax and say, “Okay. Now I've done it. Now I can finally sit back and enjoy life”, it's in our twilight years.

So, what I'm saying is simply this: it's time to become present. It's time to realize that life, the very best part of it, is happening now. Whatever moment you're in, this is it. This is life. It's not waiting around the next bend.

One of the best responses to this realization is simply to start intentionally enjoying life more. Appreciate the beauty of the sky in the morning. Turn off your TV and learn a new skill. Explore new places. Spend time with your friends. Make new friends.

However, there's a more urgent response to this realization, especially if you're younger. Our planet is in trouble. Though not many people realize it yet, we live in a time of great change. One might compare it to having just pushed off from the top of a giant water slide: you're not moving fast enough for it to be scary yet, but you're about to be, and there's nothing that you can do to stop it. Our world is hurtling into a period of societal, environmental, and intellectual upheaval. This upheaval is driven by the fact that our culture is based on the idea of endless consumption; a consumption not matched by endless resources. In so many ways – climate, water supply, food supply, mineral exploitation, and others – we are pushing the limits of what is possible with the resources that we have. Our global infrastructure has been cracking, unnoticed, under the strain, and it is now crashing to the ground.

Your heart is bump-bumping the rest of your life away. What are you going to do with that life? Enjoy it, yes. But you also have a responsibility. Whoever you are, you have a responsibility to use some of your time to ease mankind's load on the planet. You have a responsibility to help society transition into a period of deep uncertainty.

If you're a potential CELL student, then the best possible way that you could go about that is by signing up for this course. It will teach you how to live in the moment as well as educate you about the major issues going on across the globe. It will give you the skills, both intellectual and practical, for you to enjoy life to the fullest and make a real, significant change in the world.

For everybody else, do some reading. Start with Eaarth by Bill McKibben and Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough. Figure out ways to make your own life more sustainable, and then spread your ideas outward to your community. Be an active voice. You'll find that many of the things that are good for the Earth are also good for your own health and happiness. Building stronger, more connected communities is synonymous with building more environmentally sustainable communities. An amazing number of the world's problems can be solved by taking a critical look at our lifestyles and changing them to include the things that really make us happy instead of the things that our culture tells us should make us happy.

And no matter who you are, remember to be present in your everyday life. After all, the present moment is all that there really is.

- Connor

Preparing for Departure

Today in our NWEI discussion Karin said something that struck me. Although I had been realizing it through out our entire trip, things sometimes hit you unexpectedly with the simplest phrase. She said “you are all changed people”. And without question, she’s right. We have lived together for three months, become friends, been vulnerable, laughed, shared stories, “passed the squeeze”, cried, placed each other in Hogwarts houses, had our fair share of cleaning conversations, cooked (the basic food groups being kale, quinoa and beans of course), sang, “killed” each other with socks’, fallen (Tara), farted a plenty (you know who you are) swam, trekked to the gym, played soccer, and lastly, laughed some more.

We have analyzed who we are, the lives we lead, the world we live in and our place in it. No matter what we do with our new knowledge, whether we continue our previous lives or transform entirely, we are all changed people. We have shared an incredible experience together that we will forever look back upon and smile. What we have done, the friendships we have made, the landscapes we have seen, and the discussions we have had are some of the most valuable memories of my life.

Personally, I have gained a somewhat ironic realization. In the midst of confusing discussions where the best option is unclear, I have found clarity. For example, what I previously thought was good, green, renewable energy (geothermal) is now possibly not so limitless, or wanting to have solar panels and a wind turbine at my house but needing a well paying job that goes through the traditional, expensive, competitive, education system to do so. When something’s have felt like lose-lose situations, and when some conversations have left me with more questions than answers, I have gained clarity. Clarity about who I am, and clarity about who I want to be. About not only my future career goals, but who I am in present time, the person I want to portray in present time, and the decisions I can make now.

 This environment, my teachers, the documentaries, the readings and most importantly our discussions and the people that create them, have forever changed me. When deep discussions get so deep that the conversation suddenly turns silent and all you can see are peoples minds twirling, realizing our world is in deep trouble, you know you are apart of something special and world changing.

We are all changed people. We are united by an experience only these 16 individuals have experienced. I am sad to leave, sad this moment can never be replicated, but happy it will forever be a part of me. Thank you Iceland, thank you Sólheimar, thank you Karin, thank you Hank and thank you CELL group 2012.

Margaret Hoyt


The Security of our Routines

Daily routine. What is a daily routine? What is your daily routine? Possibly a day to day routine consists of waking up for work or school in the morning. You have breakfast, drive to your destination as you listen to your favorite talk show. While at work you spend the day at your desk minus when you escape for an hour for lunch. Finally, the work day is over and you come home where you cook dinner, do the dishes and finally flop down to watch a popular television series.

Give or take a little and this is the routine of most people. What does this routine have in common with everyone else’s routine? No, it is not the mundane commute to work or the hassle of doing the dishes but rather it is the sense of security. 

The main satisfaction most people receive from their daily routines is security. When we are enveloped within our everyday activities it acts as a form of shelter. Our worries and troubles are focused on deadlines for homework and we tend to feel a sense of contentment once all our emails are answered. 
We need to lay down the shield known as our daily routines and face the truth. There are bigger deadlines that stretch way beyond the realm of work and school. Various events threaten our lives every day yet are shrouded by the safety of our ritualized lives. 
Do we ever think about global climate change during our commute to work? Do we see hydro fracking as a threat to when dinner will be on the table? As we sit down on the couch to tune into our favorite tv show do we begin to think about the depletion of valuable ecosystems such as in the arctic and the rainforest?

Unfortunately, we do not share these thoughts unless the hydro fracking is in our backyards or unless the food we put on our table for dinner becomes a hazard to our health. This is why we need to fill out days more with concerns about the degradation of our earth.

The first way we can inflict change is through acknowledgment. We must acknowledge that although global climate change may not be apparent on our way to school tomorrow, it will become noticeable before we even know it. The next step is that we must incorporate our effort to aid the environment within our daily lives. If we ride a bike to work or spend a half an hour a day writing letters to politicians before we sit down to watch our tv show change can be made. Most importantly this change will be integrated within the safety of our routines and therefore will not pose a great threat to our regimens. If we integrate good deeds for the environment within our everyday lifestyle the change will be beneficial yet not an overwhelming task. We do not need to be radical treehuggers or hippies to influence change. We can take everything step by step and day by day. We can alter this planet for the better and yet still maintain a little of our safety net known as our “routines.”

Tara Byrne

The Lessons We Have Learned

When I first found out that I had been accepted to the CELL Iceland program I was extremely excited. However, that was quickly followed by a wave of nervousness and doubt.  I knew the majority of the program would focus on environmental science and sustainably, both of which I had never studied before. Hard sciences make me nervous and I couldn’t even begin to tell you what sustainability meant. I was first interested in the program when I saw I would look in depth at the Icelandic culture and study its history. As an anthropology student, this was fascinating to me, but hearing about all the science made me a little hesitant. 
Another aspect that made me a bit nervous was the possibility of all the new East coast people in the program I was going to meet. I had had a bad experience on a previous program with some East Coasters and was afraid I would have trouble fitting in and making friends. This fear came to be non-existent when I finally met all the lovely people who, over the next three months, would come to be my crazy, funny, slightly odd, and extremely loving Icelandic family.
 My fear of the science appeared to be silly as well. With my friends and teachers supporting me, I embraced the challenging aspects of the class and opened my mind to the new ideas all around me. I have learned about the challenges our world faces including Hydro-Fracking, social rights issues, poor agricultural practices, environmental exploitation, global warming, and the list goes on. However, we have also learned a lot about how small groups and communities around the world are joining together to try and solve many of these issues. We are learning a lot about the bad in the world, but also coming away with knowledge of the good things that are happening and how we can help.
CELL brought us together with the common goal of learning more about our world, but in the end, it taught us so much more than that. We have learned about communities and the ties that bring people together. We have learned so much more about each other and ourselves. We have formed a bond that, even after we part ways and even after time passes, I don’t think any of us will forget.
We have learned that the future is in us and that we have the power to make great change together. This is a lesson I will never forget and these are the people that helped me learn it in a beautiful country I never thought I would find myself in. So thank you guys for helping me along this crazy, beautiful journey and for teaching me things I will never forget. I love all of you so, so much.
Jordin Muller

"A View of Solheimar: a Re-Imagining"

Day 72-

It’s getting colder.  It’s getting darker.  I wake up after seemingly hours and hours of sleep to find out I don’t know whether it’s day or night.  Eight hours go by, it’s still dark, two more hours, getting lighter, and by mid day we find ourselves entrenched in what barely passes as daylight.  I wake up hungry, but there is no time to feed.  We have to meet.  So instead, we walk.  We make our way, through the dark, not knowing if we are going the right way.  Most mornings are brisk and dark, but we have no choice.  Finally, we see the building where we have to meet.  The people seem to appear from nowhere.  No one knows why, but they do it every morning; even we don’t know why we do it with them.  We hold the hands of people we barely know, they speak in a harsh, otherworldly tongue, which we have no ability to understand, and at the end they pass something off as singing.  The only piece that keeps us coming back is the opportunity to find out what is for the mid-day feed.  The rest of the day seems to pass in less and less time.  It is as though we are waiting for the darkness to return.  Perhaps something is empowering about the darkness, a false sense of freedom.  Today the darkness came even earlier, and we were simultaneously shrouded in a veil of snow.  The beauty is the way this land of ice can be so tremendously terrifying and remarkably gorgeous concurrently.  The chance of being suffocated by ash from an erupting volcano is ever present, or perhaps being devoured by the lava itself; there is the ever-existent feeling of being frozen in time by this land’s power, as though we have no control.  Yet day after day, we overcome, and do it all again.  

How have I grown?

This semester has been a whirlwind and has really flown.  I have grown as a person more than I ever imagined that I would, and have so many wonderful people to thank for that.  The following is a collection of words and phrases that describes just how I have grown, and what I have gained from not only my teachers and classmates, but the people here in Solheimar who have taught me so much. So, just what have I learned? How have I grown?

Icelandic- but not quite enough. The power of wind. Fears. Courage. Invitation. Egil’s Saga. Places we call home. The chill of the air and the warmth of geothermal power. Deforestation. Reforestation. Connection.
Colors. Energy. Destruction.

Undersea cable.
Impression. Inspiration. Beauty. Live in the present. Nature. Fresh air. The grandeur of a summit. Secrets of simplicity. Ecological footprint. Northern lights. Magic.

Religion. Spirituality. Vastness. Barrier. Every little thing’s gonna be alright.
Critical thinking. Community. Comfort. Transformation. Worries. Values. Generosity. Sustainability. Sadness and hurt. Hope.

Hydropower. Turf houses. Pancakes and waffles- as a snack. Sunrises. Sunsets. Darkness.
Sheep. Horses. Walks. Sympathy. Disappointment. Mountains. Country.

Morning song. History. Sesselja. More Icelandic weather phrases than I thought I could learn. Cradle to cradle. Be good, not just less bad. Biomimicry. Nature as a model. Nature as a measure. Nature as a mentor.

Workshops. Joy. Communication- even in the smallest ways.
Volcanoes. Waterfalls. Environmental amnesia. Education. New knowledge. Hugs. Smiles. Passion. Kindness.

Recycling. Change. Relationship and responsibility.
The power of a party. The power of music. The power of kale.

Gratitude circle. Ecovillage. Live with the rhythm of the stars. The awe of a clear night and the gloom of a cloudy day.
Knitting. Togetherness. European backpacking. Moss. Rivers. Reality.

Giving. Receiving. Calling. Wonder.