By Ray and Story
Last week we Arcadians hosted a scholar in residence, Jim Merkel, author of Radical Simplicity, environmental activist, founder of Global Living Project, and an all around awesome guy. While we had been reluctant about additions to our small 15-person community it is unanimous that his presence has led to many new constructive conversations and ideas.
He arrived by canoe on Monday night and toured Arcadia briefly before joining us for a delicious dinner cooked by Story and Flick. After our meal we all reconvened in the community yurt to introduce ourselves and discuss how each of us became interested and involved in the environmental movement. We were surprised to find that even after living together for two months in a yurt village in the woods, this was a conversation we had never had as a group.
The next morning after breakfast, half of us headed off to woodworking while the rest of us fired up the wood stove in the community yurt and learned how to calculate ecological footprints with Jim. This gave us a lot to think about and discuss over lunch until the others returned. We regrouped in the toasty yurt to talk about our own personal beliefs and ethics pertaining to sustainability on both a global and individual level. At dinner it was clear that Jim’s presence hadn’t interfered with the group dynamics when a certain Arcadian stood on a chair to share an on-the-spot poem following a lost bet. Afterwards, the woodworking crew got caught up on what they had missed in the morning. The next day we had some time to process everything we had been learning and exploring with Jim when we went on a field trip to the Wild Center in Tupper Lake.
On Thursday morning after breakfast, we met in the outdoor classroom for our weekly symposium, led and facilitated by Jim. After continuing our week’s discussions on sustainability and simplicity, we split up into small groups based on our philosophy on family size to propose a living situation that successfully adhered to Jim’s “Wise Acre Challenge.” This challenge, described in depth in Chapter 10 of Radical Simplicity, urges the individual to live in a manner that impacts a single acre of our planet. Given that a pound of beef alone impacts .24 acres, we quickly realized that using one acre total is much easier said than done, and that an all-around radical change in lifestyle is required to truly live sustainably.
After leading us through three thought-provoking days, Jim left us to think and discuss all the lessons he brought with him during chore time, lunch, and the rest of the semester. Overall this week really shook things up at Arcadia. We all learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We would like to extend our gratitude to Jim Merkel for coming out to Arcadia, bringing a new energy to our group, and putting up with our typical ridiculous shenanigans.
Ray and Story