By Libby Nashwinter
In the midst of our daily routines at home, we far too often fall into the trap of being too comfortable. We are too comfortable with the amount of knowledge we have, which allows us to pass by opportunities to learn more about ourselves, the world, and, most importantly, our place in the world. I think we are often afraid of experiencing new things, for they never fail to prove how much we do not know. This Indian excursion has blessed us with so many eye-opening experiences that force us to view the world through a lens of immense curiosity, which has ultimately led us to ask meaningful questions. Personally, the past two days granted me the most curiosity thus far.
We were lucky to spend the last day and a half, March 7-8, with the local environmental team, ANET. Spending the days with such passionate researchers showed us just how much we have to learn. The more we learned, the more we realized how little we know in the most positive sense. As the coral specialist we met with today put it, “the closer you look at the world, the fuzzier things get.” Learning real hard science was tough to process in the midst of this busy adventure. One thing I found helpful throughout the overload of interesting—mind-blowing, even—information was searching for both obvious and abstract connections. For example, the reliance between species in the jungle was so clear. Without one another, these organisms could not survive and thrive as they do in order to compare the magical, most vibrant jungle we trekked through. It proved to me that everything and everyone is the way they are for a reason. We all know that the world cannot be explained in its entirety, for it is far too dense. However, the more we experience, the better window we may have into understanding why things in the world are as they are. Observing these symbiotic relationships in the environment showed me showed me that relationships with other beings are so important in achieving many successes in life, especially happiness.
When learning about coral reefs on our second day with the environmental team, the topic of reef resilience has remained in my mind most heavily. This concept led me to more, perhaps more obvious, connections between individual plants and animals we have studied and ourselves as individual human beings who need each other to some extent. Not only is the definition of “resilience” applied similarly to humans and the environment, but also we discussed a concept called “social ecological resilience”, which reflects how we, as humans, rely on the environment around us in order to lead our best lives. The researchers residing in the Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team (ANET) headquarters are living proof of this idea. Every aspect of these individuals’ lives have the local environment so deeply ingrained in their everyday existences.
These individuals proved such inspiring dedication to their passion, and it was evident through their excited teaching. We all experience positives and negatives in our lives, for we are all human, but our immense abundance of curiosity and willingness to discover the world beyond ourselves sprouted such positive vibes to lay the foundation for our experience in the Andaman Islands. After quite some time away, we may be dreaming of home, but our experiences in this environment have revealed an entirely new sect of curiosity in each of us to pack up and carry home. Today we were reminded of home in many ways, but most prominently, of how coastal communities of both Virginia and the Andaman Islands rely on the local environments. Similar to school, where we most definitely get more than the average school experience, we have gotten far more than the average, expected island experience. We got to learn about what makes this place so beautiful and environmentally rich—a behind the scenes view.