Finding (an Environmental) Focus

College, Like Life, Is All About Distractions

Joining a college environmental group is a great way to become

As a freshman in college, you forget to complain. The sheer newness of it all (the people, the textbooks, the dorm) tends to suffocate most into a subconscious oblivion. Looking back on those fragile semesters, freshman year proved to be more of an extended summer camp—albeit one with a lot of extra bookwork. Turning a green leaf was on my To-Do List right under "Make Friends," "Get a Brilliant GPA" and "Figure Out Where My Next Class Is." Needless to say, my revolutionary spirit was akin to coffee left out too long: stale and lukewarm.

Don’t get me wrong—I did find time to issue the beginnings of a disapproval. For one, our cafeteria lacked the five-star cuisine I had envisioned. The basic pasta and greasy pizza was a far cry from my dreams of fresh vegetables and fruit. And mentioning the questionable meat on my plate was a great way to start a conversation with my nervous classmates. Under the veil of nervousness, anyone can talk about what is on his or her plate. Bad food is binding.

Freshman year felt like a constant decision: somehow, someway those club presidents could just tell I was new. Debate team? Newspaper? How about the physics club? Wide-eyed and a little frightened, I waded through the bulletins and fliers in an attempt to find serious career-building activities, fun time-fillers and perhaps a friend or two. The options seemed endless.

The club fairs were always the best. Older students with their fancy confidence would smile and wave me over to their booth. I ended up joining clubs on the spot: smiling, nodding, bobbing my head in an unknowing oblivion as I signed my name to the list. Magically, I was suddenly a member of not one, not two but about ten different budding organizations I knew nothing about.

Gradually, I learned I had made a mistake. I did not particularly care for Anime (they had a great candy selection), knew nothing about biology and no, despite my fair skin and white lies, really did not know how to Irish Dance. I needed a focus.

The lure of college—and perhaps, that boring bit about growing up—is to find what grabs you. Sampling and the occasional soul-searching is key. It took a lot for me to finally admit defeat: at first, I was determined to attend all ten club meetings. I told myself I could spend nights reading Japanese comic books (or Googling a few key words) and learning how to Irish step dance via YouTube. Easy. As soon as I finished that chapter on Coolidge . . .

Despite all of those luring fairs and multicolored booths, I soon learned the importance of passion. Overwhelmed, I blindly joined any club that promised approval. I never calculated my actual interests before filling out my information. I had no true desire to delve into these clubs. I felt no purpose, no momentum. Passion encourages us to move forward; boredom and indecision keeps us sitting motionless.

The environmental movement has never lacked true passion. At its core stands those who have given themselves entirely over to eco-consciousness. These are the people who truly propel the movement to the masses. From the BP oil disaster has come a gushing of mass passion. Beaches are becoming oil slicks; the animals of the ocean are suffering and fishermen are losing huge amounts of revenue. As oil hits American shores, the environmental movement has gotten an unprecedented jump in support. American consumers now have a focus: they want alternatives to messy fossil fuels. They are finally paying attention to our precious environment.

Now, it is time for the environmentalists to start acting. The time has come to harness American rage, the energy towards a better tomorrow. In a sense, life imitates a lot of what my freshman year encapsulated. The multiple distractions, the endless confusion. Throw in a real job, real bills and a real family to worry about. It is no wonder that it took an enormous disaster to invigorate the American people. Americans are busy, time-crunched and just plain distracted.

SHANNON GOMBOS is an editorial intern at E.