Happy 4th of July

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Riva has become a cozy home for all of us by now, our short time here has been filled with sleepless travelling and long train rides to foreign lands. The sun rose this morning in our near-Italian land of jasmine, church bells and crab apples, emerging foggy from behind the mountains into the small empty patch of blue. It’s so strange to look out the window and see trees and rocks instead of sky –  a horizontal landscape turned vertical by the restlessness of the stony earth beneath our feet. The landscape that surrounds us is one from a National Geographic magazine, and we’ve all come to love our sleepy little hollow in the mountains. The light feeling of the air is something that never could be told in a photograph. Thinking about all the pictures I’ve taken on this trip so far, of all the things I’ve seen, I feel I’ve begun to illustrate the world through piles of documents. Watching everyone around me take a million pictures to remember their lives too, all at the same time as me, instantaneous documentation all at once, makes me realize that my illustration of the places I’ve seen overlaps entirely with other peoples’ paper trails. I begin to see the world as a giant map spread out and empty.  Then all the pictures of everyone’s lives across every country begin to populate the map at once like a satellite mosaic gaining depth, frenzied and flickering. Every corner of every place on the globe overlaps in photographs. Peoples’ moments cross and double back and coincide with each other as a giant symphony. Being in a place like Switzerland makes you remember the earth and all its beauty, its colors, and all its continents.

Today has been a day of water discussions. We spent the morning learning about Switzerland’s role as ‘the water tower of Europe.’ Knowing that man’s interaction and involvement in harnessing water often ends in poor water quality is a very disarming thought, with pollutants seeping in to even the most pristine of landscapes. In the context of our stay in Riva, the thought of ecosystems being decimated is heartbreaking. We learned about third world countries and water scarcity. The reality of widespread sickness is one that many of us aren’t entirely aware. The availability of clean and plentiful water is something that is not equal throughout the world; many societies are crippled by their problems with water. We spent the afternoon discussing the means by which we can make a difference in water quality – first by making people aware of the issue. It seems that a lot of the time people are reluctant to make changes unless the consequences of their actions result directly in disaster. We need to encourage businesses to be mindful of their water consumption and the impact of waste on the surrounding environment, and the world as a whole.

It’s crazy how much we take for granted all that we have. After having learned that only a single calorie requires a liter of water in its production, we all sat down to gorge ourselves with a delicious villa meal without a second thought. Doing laundry, brushing our teeth, washing our fruits, all seem like things we are entitled to without any question. By being mindful of the true amount that we actually consume on a daily basis may help us all to help offset the issue of wasting water. It seems fitting that today,  on the fourth of July, we think of the standard the United States has for water. It is not plentiful or available to all Americans and it can only be clean again so long as we are mindful of our actions. Not only should we feel incredibly lucky to live in a place with an infrastructure developed enough to make our lives so easy, we should take action to both solve current global issues with water availability and prevent future contamination as a result of our own apathy.

Guest contributor:  Caroline Nilsson

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