Where do you go and what do you do when you want to become a climate change activist? When you start watching a lot of documentaries, understanding what is happening in the world, asking yourself about your role in society, and wondering how we ended up there, then it’s time to take a step towards a different lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be as radical as moving to the Caribbean, though that’s the choice I made.
Climate change...what a vast subject. It feels like each and every action that we take in our comfortable western lives leads to this. We are indoctrinated with the belief that we need to always buy more, so we always produce more and then we just always throw away more. This remark from a friend still resonates with me: “You’re throwing this away. But there is no Away!” We are taught to put things in waste bins and once our waste is in there, well, we stop thinking about it altogether. We are completely disconnected and nobody is held responsible for the waste we produce.
I wanted to act and make a difference in the world, at my scale. I know that I won’t change the world on my own, but by working along with all the little “ants of change,” it might be possible to make things move. That’s why I think it’s time for me to listen to the wise who say, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi)
Participating in one of RVA’s programs means being part of a team of 2 to 30 people from all over the world and that means adapting to very different ways of thinking, different ways of working. Some traditions or ways of expressing our feelings and emotions and passing on messages vary greatly from culture to culture. Something that you would normally say or do in your country might upset someone from a different culture and it can result in conflicts. A conflicts can be challenging to deal with as it soon becomes a global/public matter in the small community. As amazing and beautiful as it is, living at RVA brings its fair share of challenges and can sometimes be overwhelming, but it is all well worth it.
Living at RVA means giving up some of your usual comfort. For many of us, we have lived in a home with our family and then moved out to our own place like a flat or a house. Most of us had access to our own bathroom and a nice kitchen in which we could prepare whatever we fancied. Coming to RVA, you start by sharing a room, which most of us have not done for a very long time. That can create some difficulties in the beginning, as you get to share with a total stranger. This is a real challenge for some of us. But because we come here for a specific purpose we all work together to make it functional.
Spending six months at RVA was a way for me to define and explore possibilities for the future. I know that I don’t want to go back to a society that pushes me to be someone that I’m not. I don’t want to purchase dead things, wear make-up, and have a job that will benefit only a few. I want to change my lifestyle, live closer to the earth and nature, plant trees, and walk barefoot. Being part of a team, learning about the issues of the world, working in the gardens at RVA and in the village, meeting the local community, creating relationships with very different people is a very enriching experience that everybody should have the chance to live.