WV Leader Maddy Salzman recently gave an inspiring presentation on her idea of “new environmentalism” for a live audience at a locally organized TEDx event at Washington University, where she is completing her degree in Environmental Policy. She opened the talk with memories from her experience leading her trip in Alaska this past summer for Wilderness Ventures. In her opening remarks, Maddy recalls a once-in-a-lifetime experience of herself and her students, who were lucky enough to witness an ancient glacier calve ship-sized chunks of ice into the sea. She goes on to the describe how the glacier had retreated a startling eight miles over the past century.
Certainly, the ability to experience calving glaciers (or any glaciers) from the seat of a kayak as Wilderness Ventures students have for the past four decades, is an opportunity at risk of disappearing for future generations. However, Maddy quickly pivots her talk from once-in-a-lifetime experiences available to a lucky few, to the climate change-related circumstances that effect the daily lives of everyone on the planet – discussing the global (and universally local) implications of global warming. In doing so, she frames climate change as a “human issue” that transcends borders, politics and opinion. To begin to tackle the problem of climate change, she proposes three, universal tools: exposure, empathy and enterprise.
In her call for “exposure,” Maddy invites audience members to get-out and explore the world. Discover Alaskan glaciers. Visit the rain forests of Costa Rica and the Dominican. Scuba Dive the Great Barrier Reef and the spice island of Zanzibar. Travel and explore. “Seeing the struggles of the world up close and personal is a way of breaking cultural, social and language barriers,” says Maddy, “and being exposed to the world doesn’t mean you need to travel far.” Natural and cultural wonders that inspire empathy and understanding are waiting in amazing places like Yellowstone National Park, on Mount Rainier, the Olympic coast and countless other amazing destinations that have captured the hearts of over 21,000 WV students since 1973.
Maddy encourages listeners to “Make an effort to find the humanity in others.” Ironically, it is the people whose lifestyles have done the least to cause global warming who are often the most affected by climate change.” These are the people, as Maddy puts it, “who rely on the earth for their survival.” As the international arm of Wilderness Ventures, Grand Earth Adventures connects students with amazing cultures and environments while fostering empathy by enabling students to see themselves as part of a global community. “Empathy helps us focus on making the world a better place for all of us,” says Maddy. Grand Earth Adventures drive empathy and intercultural sensitivity on village service projects in Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, the Dominican, Tanzania, Thailand and Fiji.
Concluding her TED Talk, Maddy calls on audience members to “establish a new vision of the world through enterprise.” She says that environmental awareness belongs in every field and industry. Conservation is not a compartmentalized discipline. Rather, a conservation ethic that can bring the environment into all fields, and tie into every industry – from urban planning to investment banking. As pioneers in the field of outdoor education since 1973, we are proud to instill an ethic of civil, social and environmental responsibility in each new generation of WV Students.
Watch Maddy’s Tedx Talk Here