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Monday December 11th 2017

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Beavan Visits Campus – How Are We Impacting Our Environment?

By Gustav Hollnagel–

“No impact” man Colin Beavan came to Morningside to give a reflective speech about the demeanor of our society. We keep trading the blame for conditions we are, at least, partially to blame for ourselves.  In general, people should try to find the things in life they can control and those that lie within their own responsibility.

About 150 people gathered in the UPS Lincoln Center to listen to Beavan. It was quiet in the room, only lightening up through the occasional laugh and inspirational sigh of the audience. Beavan came to ignite the minds of his listeners, and his demeanor conveyed that message.

Since the begin of his project in 2006, Beavan was on the “Colbert Report” twice, and on “Good Morning America” an unbelievable five times. In these shows, he spoke about the “No Impact Man” project. At Morningside, he just summarized the project and then quickly switched over to a rather philosophically engaging form of speech.

The extremism of values that society lives by is shocking, according to Beavan. More and more skyscrapers are built while a billion people on this planet do not even have access to clean drinking water.

Beavan did not talk specifically about the reasons why our society is so unaware or unwilling to see reality. “I just want people to show interest in conversations and look for common ground,” said Beavan during his speech.

Blaming the other happens in all layers of society. But Beavan said we could explicitly see it in the government, where Republicans and Democrats are fighting over control instead of displaying that they care for the country, let alone the planet.

Halfway through the speech, Beavan asked the central question: “How long is it before the system [ecological and biological] can’t support us anymore?” Beavan thinks it is not a coincidence that war is happening in countries with access to oil. Also, the BP oil spill is a sign for the things to come, and by no means just an accident in the past.

Towards the end of the speech, Beavan drifted more in the direction of individual responsibility and opportunities to embrace change. He compared our lives to the perception of a “party” that always ends in a wreck and never gets cleaned.

In fact, we never get to have a party, but we’re still wrecking the earth. There are a lot of problems, one of them being the 27% of the population that suffer from depression. People assumedly work too much and have no time to love or care.

Throughout his presentation, he kept telling stories and metaphors, including some humorous remarks and rhetoric here and there. One story was a bout a young man who wanted to do more non-profit service. But the man said he does not have the chance to convert his ambition, since he wants to get rich and create a family.

Beavan said that nowadays, people are frightened to pursue their dreams because other things are seemingly more important or it would be unfeasible to achieve both. Put in a more rhetorical context: “Why is being a monk and merchant at the same time such an unreal thing to believe?”

That question indicated the deep seeded problems of our society’s demeanor altogether. The alternative? “Be more like you, way, way more like you. I know you have kindness in your hearts,” Beavan said. “But the kindness is not reflected in our institutions.”

(see also: “No Impact Man” Comes to Morningside)