Passion is a very powerful word these days because of the amount of expectation it holds. There is a lot of pressure to discover what you are passionate about, and to then pursue it. You’d better hope it’s something lucrative! Passions can define your identity, the course you take through life, and the people you meet. Many of us in the Environmental Studies Program ended up here because of passion for the outdoors, ocean, food or some other point of contact between humans and what we typically call the environment. That, perhaps more than any other reason, explains why the changing of perceptions that takes place among the majority of beginning ENVS students is so hard. If you love something, it can be hard to let go. That is to say, passion can result in frustration as well, and if you are very passionate about the environment, it can lead to getting upset. Herein lies the value of the Environmental Action Living Learning Community (on who’s blog in collaboration with the ENVS Program I found these posts). Change is hard, and it is nice to have people who have already experienced it to show you what life is like on the other side.
It is interesting to note what passions reveal about environmentalism. Recent graduate Samantha Shafer, writes a post about her passion for connections. For Sam, it is the interconnectivity of the world that makes it rich and beautiful. In her eyes, true “passion must be contagious and far reaching.” In other words, you cannot just choose one thing to hold onto so tightly that you ignore everything else. Rather, your interest, passion, love, or whatever you want to call it–if it is true–will extend to all the components of whatever it is you are passionate about. For example, if I were to be a true lover of Rock and Roll (which I rather think I am), it would be obtuse of me to ignore blues and folk music, which provided the antecedents for rock, or the cultural phenomena that led to its popularity. It is not hard to extrapolate this message to environmental studies. If we proclaim to have a real passion for the environment, we have to consider all that it is, and acknowledge the connections it encompasses: not just trees and streams, but humanity, fire, and evolution–events of all scales. Sam offers words of advice to her ENVS first years: it is good to maintain your passion for whatever it was that got you interested in the first place, however, it is necessary to recognize that most everything is part of a larger system. Some have dubbed this a “Panarchy,” which is a way of framing reality as the product of processes on many different scales of many different types that interact and connect with each other in one way or another.
Senior Hannah Smay, contemplates the progress and path that her passions have taken since coming to college in her post ‘Passion Theory‘. The theory half of this title is an allusion to the Environmental Theory 350 class that we were in together last semester. In the post, she points out the intersectionality of passion and identity–they are a give and take, she says, both of them contributing to and molding the other. They “mutually reinforce each other.” What you love can become your identity (playing guitar passionately can make you a guitarist) and oppositely, your identity can manifest itself in your passions and interest, as with Hannah who loved the outdoors and became an Environmental Studies Major. This is a very interesting point that shows the importance of examining one’s passions–they are not dormant. They have a huge bearing on the direction we take, and should be treated as such.
Georgia Reid, a rising sophomore, examines her own eclectically effervescent passions and beliefs about passion in her post “Of Writing Itself.” Cropping up all over her post is a focus on balance. Balance between passion and responsibility, work and play, or “living and recording.” In this post, the search for a passion is abandoned in recognition of the fact that balance is the most important part. At the end of the post, when she lists what is important to her, she frames it all with a desire for balance. This harkens back to what Sam Shafer wrote about with her connections. Sam might suggest that Georgia is passionate about balance (although I shouldn’t make overly large assumptions). If, in fact, as Hannah points out, passions lend themselves to one’s actions, I think that Georgia has her head in the right place for environmental studies.
ENVS at Lewis & Clark is all about connection and balance. Many of us come in with a strong, stubborn, potentially narrow passion. But if we want to stay afloat, there is a need to recognize connections and widen our gaze. Our beliefs and our actions are inextricably entwined, and examining passions can shed light on why we act the way we do, or how we might change to find more parity. Accepting the transition to a complex world that requires complex solutions to endlessly convoluted issues requires a passion for these things, which is demonstrated by these students.