Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Education to Activism

By Garrett Russell '08 

Russell '08 during his first cross country trip
 An education in multiple forms is a gift of magnitude to any individual seeking to find their own path. My education at Pacific University gifted me more than the role of being a student, or graduate. I discovered I was a traveler, globe hopping with Ellen Hastay's service learning journeys in the great corners of this planet. I found a passion for studying cultural cause and effect throughout history and my own generation by cooking and walking the streets of Europe with Cheleen Mahar's anthropology travel course.

My education inside and outside the walls of Forest Grove propelled me into a world of connecting the dots in both my own life and the web around me. My miles on foot, bike, ship and plane traveling the U.S. and globe since graduating four years ago has supplemented a foundational process, which has me creating films and web series about the connective human experience in both painful destruction and triumphant solution. Turns out that we are magnificent beings of limitless potential.

From the most ignorant, hateful, malicious and unhappy individuals I have met to the iconic joy spouting, innocent, smiling and surviving poverty-stricken child, there is goodwill somewhere within us. I know this sounds like new-age rhetoric, but all it took to create great patriotism in my spirit for the land, people and being of this beautiful, volatile nation was a simple bike ride for a passionate desire to get those without clean drinking water, an option to a new way of life.

I, who once cracked jokes at the plight of spandex-laden cyclists, or even worse, cycle tourists (with their giant pannier bags and ridiculous bright tractor reflectors) found myself to now be one of them. My dear friend and confidant and photographer, Brittany App and I set off on an unsupported trip from San Diego, Calif. to St. Augustine, Fla. The journey was a total distance of over 3,200 miles with over $15,000 dollars raised for clean water and sanitation in Africa and Asia thus far.

As a tribute to the stories of the magnificent individuals we met along the way, of each region and its water abuses and successes and to highlight the vibrant way of life it has been traveling by bicycle, I directed and edited the short episodic web series, "Water Tension."

This series is my humble piece of the puzzle in our conversation of making positive changes and enacting direct and compassionate solutions into our daily lives and culture for the betterment of the children of seven generations from now. The issue of water is a basic, elemental right to all living beings and connects us all to other issues in this world involving the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of our connected future outcomes.

We are one giant family on this floating orb that sports a Dr. Seuss-like plethora of animals, cultural, geological and environmental diversities. Breath it all in. There are a billion different causes with billions of us strong and waiting to act. It is about taking that education, opportunity, passion, frustration and even apathy, and taking action in this moment. For the sake of your own well-being, for the connected plight of those we care about and the life you claim to want to live, we need to let our differences remain frivolous and stride towards seeing our similarities with celebration and understanding.

It may not be a crazy long bike ride. It may not be a documentary. We all have different forms of expression for change, but unless we all start expressing a lot, soon and with open minds, ears and hearts, that seventh generation and our kids will have a life on this earth in which the beauty may be harder to innately experience.

Pass it on. This is a fine generation of young people on this daily-shrinking digital earth, with an hourly-expanding consciousness. Let us do something about expressing who we truly are and where we would like to end up. Let us each choose our own way to make a gracefully, powerful mark on this collective experience.
Visit Russell's website "Cycling for Water"

And so, I ride on. I currently am 500 miles into what will hopefully be a 15,000 mile bicycle trek that has myself and my partner, Sara Miller ’11, following the four approximate borders of the United States. We started in Northwest Washington and are in western Montana on our way east on our first leg to Bar Harbor, Maine. We serendipitously ride for the cause of clean rainwater and healthcare for the very indigenous I met in the Ecuadorian rainforest with Ellen Hastay on a Pacific travel course in 2007.

The communities we ride for consist of strong and beautiful peoples who have inspired my drive toward activism through film and connecting people to promote peaceful solutions. In solidarity with their fight to save their lands and offspring from pollution created by an American company Texaco/Chevron, we are riding in hopes that our cause will connect with other's causes and that a positive movement of service and revolution will dictate the path we move down together. Cheers to clear skies, fair winds and memories worth having. Peace be your journey.

Russell '08 is the director of GBR Productions, "Giving Untold Stories a Voice." He was a film and video production and anthropology major at Pacific University. In the spare time he has, he is a musician and gardener. He is the middle child from a large multi-ethnic family and enjoys life activities from jumping out of planes to knitting scarves as gifts. Follow Russell's adventures on his blog: http://cyclingforwater.com/blog/

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