Disconnecting and Reconnecting: Tales of Arcosanti

If someone told me that I’ve been gone from Philly for a month, I would believe them. Despite the Media, Ecology, and Technology program only being a little over a week, the transformation during this short span of time has been incredible and makes it impossible to comprehend that it took place in a manner of days.

Prior to coming out to Arizona, I was your average city-slicker. Although my interest and exploration in nature were expanding, I was too comfortable in my urban bubble. During my time in Arcosanti, I was able to connect with nature on a scale I never thought possible. On our first day here, we climbed to the top of the mesa directly across Arcosanti’s buildings. To overlook the expanse of desert that surrounds us, and to suddenly turn into Lara Croft to climb up the mesa was daunting yet exciting. I felt the full force of nature’s beauty watching the sunrise as my eyes teared up and awe as constellations never visible over Philly’s light-polluted skies twinkled above me as I chatted with new friends.

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Me in front of Arcosanti’s sign outside the cafe.

A few days into our stay here, I spoke with one resident who has been here for four months. I asked her what she thought of Arcosanti, to which she responded, “Arcosanti is like a mirror”. Her words were so true. By having time to myself outside of classes, I had a chance to reflect on myself and my own behaviors.

I tried to use my downtime by hiking on the property, meditating, reading, journaling, and bask in the stillness that surrounded me. My screentime was significantly cut. Before I could spend an average of 10 hours a week on my phone and now my average is 3. As a journalist, I felt that I had to be constantly plugged into social media and the news, even if it was a detriment to my mental health. I have fewer urges to be online as I had previously. I also became more sociable in an environment where it’s a necessity to build community on a microcosm.

Our excursions beyond Arcosanti were a blast. At Biosphere II, we saw replicated environments such as an Amazonian forest, a swamp, and ocean to test how these environments would fare through different scenarios. It was a true testament to how far our science has come. Taking a hike through Catalina State Park helped me bond with my peers, witness a vastly different environment (hello saguaros), and get well-needed exercise.

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View of the Grand Canyon during sunrise.

Grand Canyon was an experience I will never forget. It is something beyond human thought. An endless chasm that stretches far, is billions of years old, and once had an ocean, is something that definitely prompts you to reflect on your existence in this world. We’re just a speck in the greater universe and humans have to step back and not think of ourselves as superior to the existence of all other living and non-living things, but rather existing in harmony. I walked across the rim, overlooking its endless expanse. I saw ravens and a California Condor for the first time. These are places that need the utmost protection.

Through our class lectures and excursions, now more than ever I feel the media has a large responsibility when it comes to reporting on the changing climate. While people continue to deny climate change exists, the amount of climate refugees in search of a sanctuary is increasing. Those who are the most vulnerable will be hit the hardest. We as the media must report on these issues honestly and critically, as well as providing solutions and giving a platform to those working towards one.

A big issue to where we are now is that we are greatly disconnected to nature, especially for communities of color. In Philadelphia, environmental racism is a great issue. We don’t have to start from scratch in the middle of nowhere to create a sustainable “utopia”. We have to connect with each other as a community and with nature in order to move toward a better planet. Our green spaces in Philly must be preserved. There need to be accessible excursions at home that our citizens can participate in. We need to have conversations in and outside the classroom. We need to slow down and take a second to just pause and listen to the birds.

I will never forget my experience here. Arcosanti isn’t a perfect place, but it helped me to grow. I would love to one day return to Arizona. Moving forward, I will use my knowledge to push my community forward.