Last year, I spent spring break at Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center in Washburn, TN. Narrow Ridge, now consisting of over 500 acres of protected land, was started by a man named Bill Nickle, who had a vision of a place where community, sustainability and spirituality could come together. There is a small community that lives permanently within Narrow ridge, each member brings something unique. While staying there, we were given a tour and introduced to some of these members. Some were involved in bee-keeping, growing blueberries, gardening, making bread, or leading yoga and meditation.
Each of their homes were made with sustainability in mind. Bill had a saying, “PSD,” meaning Passive Solar Design. With this in mind, there has been much thought that has gone into building each of the homes in the community. Such as thinking of which side of the mountain to build on, which way the skylights face, and where the fireplace should be. The houses are energy efficient, most made of straw and stucco, or wood taken from an old barn. Also, they have no flush toilets! They are all composting toilets – a huge reduction in water use. It was strange coming home and flushing a toilet. In cities and even small towns, most homes are built with a narrow mindset. Typically, there is a square lot and a home is built to fit that lot, facing the road. There is usually not much thought of the surrounding environment because we are equipped with technology to be able to “ignore” environmental factors. At Narrow Ridge, they teach others about environmental justice and mindfulness. It is not a closed community there, but instead, an open one, that epitomizes sharing knowledge and teaching those who visit what it means to be truly ‘green.’ I, myself, learned what I can do and what to teach others to do, in order to have a positive impact on Earth.
I think back to my experience there and how it affects my thinking now. I am more thoughtfully aware. In class, we talked briefly about how in our modern world, it seems our span of active living has narrowed. We spend less time with friends, family and the outdoors and more time on phones, shopping, watching television, (which makes us shop more) and driving and sitting in traffic. It seems we have lost “time” to think and be thoughtful in our actions and how they impact the natural world around us. I believe it is worth the effort to slow down, take some moments to be thoughtful before we act. For example, if you are bored or feel like you need to go shopping, just stop and think for a moment – try a different activity, such as reading or going for a bike ride. If we all did this, imagine how it would cut down on un-necessary consumption and go a long way to limit pollution from driving. Something like this is a good start. Simple changes can have a big impact…..but, a warning – we cannot stop there.