Greetings! Summer Term is rolling along and our students have now shifted into a new theme group for the week (Ecology, Food, or Tourism and Development). As the culminating reflection for the first week of academics, our students were asked to produce a written or visual piece encompassing their experiences within their theme, while connecting back to the question of “How do we live well in a place?” Kaelyn Burbey was immersed in studying the ecology of her surroundings and is featured here for her insightful, thought-provoking and candid written response. Enjoy! [slideshow]

“…Working under the effulgent Bahamian sun, swimming alongside a four-eyed butterfly fish, mucking through mangroves, and eating conch with a local Bahamian fisherman leaves residual emotions connected with a place that can never be attained from the pages in a textbook. To obtain an ecological understanding of South Eleuthera, I had to slow down and sense the cadence of the land and ocean. SCUBA diving forced me into a world in which all that could be heard was my own breath, giving me an opportunity to experience the marine ecosystems without human interruption. Smelling the sulfurous stench as we slogged through two adjacent mangrove swamps, diverged by a single road, heightened my understanding of not only the ecological services that mangroves provide, but also how devastating human infrastructure can be on an environment. Free diving for conch with a local Bahamian spear fisherman proved the deep understanding of the environment that is needed to live well in a place. An ecological understanding is not limited to the scientific edge of fact based knowledge; Nehemiah may not know the scientific name of every fish he encounters, but he has an intrinsic knowledge of them that cannot be quantified. Having respect for an ecosystem and understanding the role that humans are supposed to play in it is crucial for the extended, sustained livelihood of an area.

I have travelled thousands of miles from my home, but throughout the week I have applied what I learned from the South Eleutheran environment to the ecology of my local area. The Island School was built on the foundation of sustainable design, but as I think about returning home, how will my view change when I reenter a society that prides itself on wasteful tactics? Layers and layers of packaging encase stores of imported goods from around the world. How, in such an industrialized and populated nation, can we find a sense of home with our natural surroundings? In the present day, it is not easy to recognize which plants are native and which are invasive to an area because ecosystems are no longer governed by the laws of nature, but now are subject more to the whim of humans. Trekking out beyond the human stained developments of my hometown, I have found niches of unperturbed wildlife flourishing. To understand the fundamental personality of an ecosystem requires one to relinquish the petty luxuries that society has deemed necessary for survival and explore the place anew. After exploring the nuances of the South Eleutheran environment, will I now see more life in the ecosystems of my local area? Ecosystems are inherently different, but the same explorative instinct applies to the discovery of any place. Living well at home will take a rediscovery of my local area and a heightened sense of belonging in a system greater than my individual circumstance…”