Preserve Nature


Commencement speech season has just passed, from the words of Michelle Obama to rhythms of Lin Manuel, Youtube is filled with a week's worth of advice from actors, poets, politicians and so many others. These speeches are supposed to be the final words at the end of a long journey and at the same time they are a propelling inspiration for the next chapter of life.

With a laundry list of speeches to listen to, may I give you a suggestion. John Green at Kenyon College 2016. Yes, The Fault in Our Stars John Green.  Yes, Crash Course John Green. Yes, the other half of Nerdfighteria John Green.


In a sea of  “chase after your dream,” “ you are great and unique,” “strive,” and “prove them all wrong,” Mr. Green has a simple message: listen.

Because listening requires you to think of others, to become aware of hopes, desires and needs. Listening requires you to actively remember that you are not the center of the universe. Listening allows you to see just how intertwined you are with your friends, neighbors, country and planet.

Environmental awareness has the same power. As an interdisciplinary field that touches just about every aspect of life, EE allows us to engage on another level. As the season starts up and new staff, students and clients come through, we WILL have opportunities to listen. We will have the chance to engage people from various perspectives.  Listening to our students will allow us to see their world. The combined hope and fear of growing up, what society expects of them and what they expect of themselves. How would that shape our organizations? How could that influence not only their lives but that of our staff?  What would it look like to engage and utilize the knowledge of our staff? Would that knowledge be diverse? Would it help to shape the future of our programs? If we stopped to listen, would all of our staff from top to bottom feel heard and accepted?  What hidden talents does your boss posses?  What heavy issues concern them in this job?

Now we could get ahead of ourselves and race to results, but we are simply at the beginning of this chapter--at the first few steps of listening.

Julian Treasures, an expert on listening, lists 4 main parts:

  1. Receive
  2. Appreciate
  3. Summarize
  4. Ask

I would add practice. You only get better at something by doing it. Start small then branch out. I think by now you are aware of looking past ourselves and towards diversity is hard work, and I’m not trying to find an idealistic answer to a wick problem, but we have to start somewhere.  With that I leave you with the words of Mr. John Green.

“Living for oneself will do absolutely nothing to fill the gasping hole inside of you.  In my experience that void gets filled, not through strength but through weakness. You must be weak before the world because love and listening weaken you, they make you vulnerable, they break you open and its is only when you are weak that you can truly see and acknowledge and forgive and love the weakness in others.  Weakness allows you to see other humans not as enemies to defeat but collaborators and co-creators.”