Posts Tagged ‘sustainability’

The most transformative week of my life: The Byron Fellowship

It’s hard to convey in words what I have just experienced and how I feel. I am still me, but I am in a completely different mental, emotional and physical space than I was a week ago. This past week at the Byron Fellowship at Turkey Run State Park has been the most inspiring, transformative, freeing experience of my life up to this point.

The word ‘cathartic’ comes to mind. I went to the Fellowship with the hope that the week could be a relaxing experience that would help me transition from a semester in academia to summer internships with the City of Bloomington and the Indiana University Office of Sustainability. The week was far more than just a transition – though it was an incredibly relaxing week that did allow me to decompress from the academic semester. However, I learned so much about myself and those around me, and about creating sustainable community and place that I find it limiting to attempt to put the experience into words. I consider myself a verbose individual, but there was something about the Byron Fellowship that has made me feel I lack the language to describe it. I feel almost as if the words don’t exist to describe the feeling I have right now – at least not in English. But nonetheless, I will continue to try.

I have never felt such a deep sense of peace, calm and connection to the natural world and all the living and none-living things in it. I feel as if all my cares have not gone away, but been intensified by the hope that knowing the people at the Byron Fellowship has given me. Never have I felt so open, so completely free to bear my heart, mind and soul to a group of people, and so confident that they will trust in me as I will trust in them, that they will not judge me in any way, that they will listen and care with the most amazing grace and compassion people could possibly have. I have been blessed with being shared such wisdom this week – the wisdom of those possessing many more years than I, the wisdom of those younger than me, the wisdom of those with different interests and skills, the wisdom of those with incredible experiences and knowledge – I have been humbled by all that they have been willing to share.

Each of those I have known at the Byron Fellowship this week has inspired me in a different way. We have shared the things that inspire us, that give us hope, that make us strong, that we believe in, and that we love. The connections with the places at Turkey Run State Park – the past and present, the old and new – and with one another – I know I will carry these with me for a lifetime.

I hope that throughout my life I can continue to be as inspired and feel as trusting in the future that we all will create as I feel today. The Byron Fellowship has given me hope that we will create a sustainable world. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes or our children’s children’s children’s lifetimes – we will be able to find those things which matter most, those things that sustain us as a people, and that sustain our natural world. We can make a real difference in individual and collective lives. The stories we tell, the way we listen and trust and hope, the compassion and love we show for one another, and the faith we have in what we believe will lead us to a better place – a more sustainable world for all.

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The most wonderful and beautiful definition of sustainable community development

I have been reading a book called How Green is the City? for a term project and I just came across the most wonderful definition of “sustainable community development” I have ever read. It’s apparently paraphrased from a book by Maser (1997) called Sustainable Community Development: Principles and Concepts, which is a very text-book-like title, but the following definition is just so wonderful and beautiful that I had to share it:

Community sustainable development is

a community-directed process of development based on: (a) transcendent human values of love, trust, respect, wonder, humility, and compassion; (b) active learning, which is a balance between the intellect and intuition, between the abstract and the concrete, between action and reflection; (c) sharing that is generated through communication, cooperation, and coordination; (d) a capacity to understand and work with and within the flow of life as a fluid system, recognizing, understanding, and accepting the significance of relationships; (e) patience in seeking an understanding of a fundamental issue rather than applying band-aid-like quick fixes to problematic symptoms; (f) consciously integrating the learning space into the working space into a continual cycle of theory, experimentation, action, and reflection; and (g) a shared societal vision that is grounded in long-term sustainability, both culturally and environmentally.

(From p22 in: Devuyst, D., ed. 2001. How Green is the City? Sustainability Assessment and the Management of Urban Environments. New York: Columbia UP.)

I’ve printed it out and put a copy on the wall above my desk, I like it so much.