The seas are rising. Fossil fuels are being consumed in record amounts, used by a world becoming ever more populated and industrialized. Weather patterns have become chaotic, resulting in fiercer storms and extended droughts. For those who pay attention to climate change, it’s apparent that something has got to give. Senior Garrett Boudinot is one of those people, and he refuses to remain idle in the face of potential ecological collapse.
But where to start? Individual efforts to lead more environmentally friendly lives are often dismissed as noble but insignificant. And expecting significant change from large corporations and governments has been deemed unrealistic; these organizations are controlled by stakeholders who stand to lose too much money or power should the status quo be upended. One possible solution: change initiated on a local level. This, Boudinot and others believe, could be the key to restoring the ecological balance on Earth.
In May, Boudinot made a research trip to Totnes, England, which is the world’s first Transition Town, or community trying to free itself of unsustainable habits, including a reliance on oil. Residents of Totnes do a number of things to make their town more self-reliant and “ecologically resilient,” says Boudinot, from recycling rain and shower water to installing solar panels to creating permacultures, farms or gardens designed to be diverse and self-sufficient. Transition Towns like Totnes also emphasize the importance of strengthening the local economy, as robust local trade decreases a dependence on oil and other sources of energy.
Boudinot came away from his visit so impressed that he is convinced Charleston should be one of the world’s next Transition Towns. And the good news is that Charleston is already well positioned to become increasingly self-reliant. There are thriving farmers markets in the Holy City, a dense urban core and a rich historical and environmental heritage that makes people emotionally invested in their community. The more people enjoy these things, Boudinot argues, the stronger and more stable Charleston
“To have a relationship with something, we have to spend time with it,” says the geology major. “Experiencing the Lowcountry is half the battle of saving it.”
Overseeing Boudinot’s research on Transition Towns is Todd LeVasseur ’97. The religious studies professor credits Boudinot for being a dedicated and well-read student, especially in the realm of scholarship concerning climate change and so-called green religions, in which ecology plays a central role in one’s way
“He’s very interdisciplinary,” says LeVasseur. “He can bridge the natural sciences and the humanities, which is a great skill set.”
Transition Towns are simply adaptive communities. They seek to survive in a changing world. And, like it or not, there is broad scientific consensus that the world is indeed changing, which is why LeVasseur champions Boudinot’s attempt to “get this on the radar as a community.
“Lying to ourselves is the worst approach,” LeVasseur says of the public indifference associated with calls to curb climate change. “I’d love to see Charleston have this dialogue.”
And, Boudinot, for one, is determined to get that dialogue going.
Photo by Gately Williams