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Punta Mona This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Never before those three days in Punta Mona had Iexperienced such a keen awareness of the natural world, coupled with a profoundconnection to it. Everything I saw, heard and felt tore me apart: I wanted to cryover the loss of millions of acres of rain forest, yet I wanted to rejoice at myown potential to change the world I live in.

Punta Mona lies on the eastcoast of Costa Rica, almost everyone's paradise: a scientist's for the complexityof the tropical ecosystem; a photographer's for the indescribable vistas of lushrain forests stretching to the white sandy beaches and reaching the clear bluewaters; and a 17-year-old's for the newfound realization of our planet's valueand understanding of its need for our attention.

The Punta Mona ResearchCenter follows the philosophy of sustainable living and Permaculture, controlleddevelopment that respects natural cycles and provides for needs of people,without compromising future generations. All the food eaten on this farm is grownorganically. Solar power and methane from burning human waste provide the energyfor daily tasks. The housing is built from naturally fallen trees, rather thancut trees. By using man-made energy, and not using pesticides, the farmers ensurethat their soil will stay fertile.

Throughout this biological field trip,our guide, Jorge, not only exposed us to rare and interesting species of plantsand animals, but also demonstrated the negative effects of our materialisticsociety. Hearing it a million times would never have brought about a changecomparable to Jorge's showing me.

During our stay, both Jorge and afarmer named Stephen bombarded us with theories advocating community-orientedliving, and denouncing competitive, isolated materialism. Their concern is thatthe Earth's resources will soon be depleted.

Though these radicaltheories and proposals were fascinating, they were not what inspired me. Thediscussions, bordering on arguments within our group of 26 naive students, werestimulating. On the surface, we were obviously a group of upper middle-classkids, but really, we represented an array of personalities, upbringings andbeliefs.

Some students dismissed every theory the Punta Monans offered,while more open-minded ones considered them. The arguments against asserted thatcommunity living, though working well here, is impractical for the rest of theworld since it would not support the world's increasing population. Supporterscountered that sustainable living must be tried before it can be belittled anddismissed.

Initially, my thinking was influenced by the visiblydetrimental effects of our society's actions on the rain forest. For this reasonI argued strongly for the need to change, specifically in the direction ofcommunity-oriented lifestyles. My new beliefs, however, did not prevent me fromlistening to other students - arguments on both sides were valid. After severalhours of heated discussion, I could do nothing more than sit back and listen. Ireluctantly concluded that I didn't know the answer. Anyone who considers his orher proposal infallible is sadly mistaken.

I know that living on a farm isnot the only way to change society. But I also know that living in apredominantly materialistic society is not right either. Somewhere in-betweenthere is a balance. The only way I'm going to change the world is to find thisbalance, and encourage others to do the same.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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