By Avonelle Davis
The resolution that I set for myself when I came to Costa Rica this semester was to try to get out of my comfort zone and experience things that I may only get a chance to do once. Among the many of these opportunities that have crossed my path, I went further out of my comfort zone than I´ve ever been before when I visited Punta Mona (Monkey Point), a permaculture farm located on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.
According to Merriam Webster, permaculture is “an agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings so as to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems.” From what I experienced, the people at Punta Mona make a sincere effort to put this system into practice. All of their electricity and heat for shower water is powered by the sun. They harvest a large majority of their food from the rainforest around them and return any food waste back to the earth through compost. Their toilets do not use running water but rather the feces fall down to the ground, are covered in sawdust to hide the smell, and are eventually turned into human compost after a nine-month process. All of their water is collected and filtered rainwater, or comes from wells that have been dug around the farm, and they only use biodegradable toiletries since the water from the showers is often used to water plants.
If you know anything about me, you know that I am not the first person who would volunteer to live for a weekend in a place where toilets don’t flush. That being said, I learned so much from my experience. I learned that it isn’t that hard to make small changes to our lives to make them more environmentally sustainable. For example, think of all the clean water that is wasted every year by flushing toilets. Can you imagine how much of that water could be saved if just one household (or suite in a residence hall) adopted the popular motto, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down?” Or what if we started to go to the local farmers markets once a month? Once a week? We could stimulate our local economies while reducing the amount of fossil fuels used to deliver produce from miles away.
I also learned that success should not be measured by the usefulness of your degree, or by your starting salary or even if you manage to get married, start a family, and advance in your career. Instead, success should be measured by how much time you can spend with the people you love. It should be measured by the how small of a carbon footprint you can leave the earth. It should be measured by your ability to live peaceably with those who are different from yourself.
As a Diplomacy major, this really hit home for me because it put why we all study this fascinating field into perspective. We do not aim to work in international relations to get the biggest paycheck, the corner office, or even the recognition. We do it because we realize that we all share the same planet and the only way we can all survive here is if we never stop searching for peaceful solutions to our problems. In my opinion, this should be the motivation behind all of our actions, whether you’re planting trees in the rainforest at Punta Mona or sitting in the front row of the General Assembly Hall.