I consider myself an environmentalist and I think that many people in our community consider themselves environmentalists as well. Being an environmentalist means something different to every person: some enjoy nature and get energy from encouraging its preservation or conservation, others seek happiness by utilizing nature for the various things it offers to us humans (utilitarian values or aesthetics). I absolutely love what our natural world has to offer and it has inspired me in many ways. I get to experience new parts of our world every day and Paul Smith’s College does an excellent job at showing students why it is important to explore their surroundings.

My education and life experience has taught me that a well-rounded environmentalist is mindful. Mindfulness is an important concept that is at the core of our education here at Paul Smith’s College. Here we learn who we are, what we are made of, and how we interact with our fellow human beings and the natural world. I have learned that everything on earth is interconnected and that the individual does have an impact on the world around them.

Mindfulness – hyper awareness, understanding your impact on others and the planet. When one is mindful, he is unbiased, aware, and understands cause and effect. He then uses knowledge and his unique perspective to change his lifestyle to better himself, his communities, and the planet.

This summer I spent time in the most vast, wild, and untouched place I have ever been and might ever go: Kodiak Alaska. I have had plenty of time now to reflect on my journey and see it in a new perspective. Being mindful during and after my experience has taught me many things; I will certainly never look at natural resources the same again.

I was introduced to five species of Pacific salmon on June 8th, when our commercial salmon season opened. As I soon discovered, these salmon would singlehandedly finance my trip from Buffalo, NY to Kodiak, AK and back via airplane, feed me, finance two national park visits, and send me home with a modest check that would be used to pay for my college tuition and living expenses.

The salmon that call Southeast Alaska home are beautiful and unbelievably strong. They have an incredible life history, and voice. They fill the cold, crystal clear ocean and rivers with life and nutrients destined for countless plants and animals. They provide for the entire ecosystem. Their role in the community, and individual story, are fascinating because of their complexity. The salmon touch everyone’s life in Alaska, whether you are a native, outsider, brown bear or bald eagle.

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My simple realization after my journey was that the Pacific salmon – this precious natural resource – allowed me to do everything I did on my trip and everything I will do for the next six months. Every time I see or think of Alaskan salmon I see my paycheck, new books, gasoline for my car, and so on. I see this resource differently now because of how close I was to it. I feel like I understand it better, and I’m thankful for what it has provided me.

Also, this realization has allowed me to be mindful about where my money has come from and what those dollars affected along the way. My mind jumps around: I think of salmon, bycatch, the pollution from the nine airplanes I was on, and many other factors.

I realized that all of our riches come from nature – all it took was for me to connect a dollar bill to fish.

I challenge myself daily to be more mindful of my decisions and life in general. I would like to challenge you to do the same. Tracing a natural resource from its origins to the dollar bill in your wallet can be a difficult endeavor, but it is well worth it.

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