By Tyler Kesler, Water Programs Manager
In March 2014, I switched from an ocean-side ‘cubicle’ to one with a mountain view when I returned from serving in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. When the American public speculates about a typical Peace Corps service, I’m sure they don’t imagine volunteers working in or near tourist hotels, but that was just what I was assigned to do. My wife and I were placed in the town of Pedernales, along the coast and the border of Haiti, to work with a local Dominican non-profit. We lived with a Dominican host family in their family-run hostel and went to work each day at a hotel, where our assigned non-profit was located. I probably don’t have to mention that our host family fed us fresh-caught lobster on a bi-weekly basis except to say that it peaked my interest for marine conservation – that and the fact that the nonprofit and hotel were a cool two minute walk to the local beach.
In developing countries, environmentalism is growing at a much smaller scale than it has in other nations including our own. Suffice it to say, there are bigger fish to fry (if you’ll allow me to use that euphemism). By this I mean that there are more pertinent problems than caring about one throws their garbage for people in developing countries such as feeding one’s family and keeping them healthy. Unfortunately, the effects are immediate and apparent. The seven hour bus ride along the coast to our site was beautiful in and of itself but tainted by all the garbage along the highways.
It was this apparent environmental detriment combined with my proximity to the ocean that propelled me to join Peace Corps Dominican Republic’s Marine Conservation Committee as the National Coordinator. We worked to coordinate conservation efforts such as National Beach Clean-Up Day and to promote marine conservation education efforts in dozens of communities, schools, and other Dominican non-profits around the country. Because the problems were so evasive, every day became Earth Day. There was always something we could do immediately to help the environment, even if it was something as simple as throwing trash into a trash can. Sometimes all it took was silently setting the example for onlookers, but mostly our efforts were direct education. “Keep the beaches and rivers clean so that your sons and daughters can enjoy the beautiful beaches of your country and tourists from around the world will want to come enjoy them as well!” we would encourage the host-country nationals. We also began a campaign to target the invasive species of Lion Fish that are currently decimating coral reefs and marine eco-systems all over the Caribbean. Spearing and eating this fish now will positively effect Dominican coral reefs and the Dominican tourism industry tomorrow.
Considering the effect of today’s actions on tomorrow is crucial for those of us living in Boulder and around Colorado as well. Each individual effort snowballs into both short and long term benefits. So as this New Year begins, I urge you to make your own grass roots effort and inspire others to conserve in one form or another TODAY. Don’t be influenced by the scrooge of New Year’s resolutions… sometimes this great sentiment is curbed by a fatalist mentality of “My decisions can’t possibly change anything, and no one is noticing anyways…” As an individual, we can’t change the course of the environment forever, but we can become a part of a community that does. With all of our concerted efforts, change can happen and we can leave a better future for those that follow us. It doesn’t need to make the news or even transpire outside the walls of your own home – inspire your partner or spouse, your kids, or simply take small steps yourself. You will be surprised with how many ideas you can come up with and how amazing this will make you feel as you play your part in conserving our precious natural resources.
At the Center for ReSource Conservation we hang our hats on practical and innovative ideas on how to conserve any and all of our natural resources. Check out the rest of the website for more ideas throughout this exciting 2015 year. We also love to highlight and support your efforts: here is one example in Lakewood as locals create sustainable solutions for Christmas trees after the holidays. From all of us at CRC, Happy New Year and make everyday Earth Day!