Sunday, October 12, 2008

Taking Natural Steps and Looking to the Bright Side

Yesterday I took part in an interview for the Rotary Club's Group Student Exchange (GSE) program to Sweden. I didn't know much about the Rotary Club before hearing about the program, but was pleasantly surprised that their mission statement is "service above self," and that this particular GSE focused on sustainability and The Natural Step. The Natural Step was actually born in Sweden and I have been trying for to a long time to experience it first-hand. I believe it could provide some excellent models and suggestions for Minnesota to build more green communities. I really hope to be chosen for the program! It sounds like it's a very enlightening, life-changing experience.

One Rotarian that I met is working on a housing project in Africa, and is trying to build it in a green, sustainable way. It sounds like they are having some challenges with solar and other innovative heating methods, but that they are on their way. One interesting thing he mentioned is a project called Millennium Villages, whose organization, the Millennium Promise, has a mission to end extreme world poverty by 2025. They focus on building up communities so they can take care of themselves economically in the future (sort of like the Eco-Affordable Housing program!), and they do it by hitting all aspects simultaneously - hunger, disease, inadequate education, lack of safe drinking water, and absence of essential infrastructure. Part of this also includes environmental sustainability. I found their handbook to be especially interesting and potentially helpful to rural community development. I am astounded and happy that so many people are doing good things in the world.

The interview, while nerve-racking, was very illuminating. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of great, heart-warming people that I met there. I would suggest to anyone to take part in such a program and apply for a GSE if you have the opportunity, and to look into the Rotary Club as well.

So I have been a little bit enlightened from this experience. Instead of focusing on the downturn in the housing market and the problems our economy is facing - which are of course very hard on our industry - let's focus on how we can help each other instead. There is still so much hope out there - so hang in there.

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