Utah Valley University’s Field Station at the Capitol Reef National Park
Recently I visited Utah Valley University’s Capitol Reef Field Station along with a group of professors and honors students. According to the main mission, the Capitol Reef Field Station, in partnership with Capitol Reef National Park, promotes and supports engaged learning, environmental ethics, research, scholarly, and creative activities through the exploration of the Colorado Plateau. We spent four days at the station discussing sustainability issues and exploring the area. Presentations were given by professors ranging from astronomy and dance to philosophy and literature.
Utah Valley University Honors students resting during a canyon hike in the Capitol Reef National Park.
The field station is on a bluff overlooking a vast desert canyon. The station represents a model of sustainability for mountainous regions, including energy self- sufficiency through solar panels, pro-active recycling policies, and monitoring capabilities over water and energy consumption (For more information about the station see: http://www.uvu.edu/crfs/index.html).
The Capitol Reef Field Station should be seen as a hub for the promotion of sustainable mountain development both in Utah and globally. Next year Utah Valley University’s Utah International Mountain Forum (UIMF) will host the Fourth International Women of the Mountains conference under the umbrella of the Mountain Partnership. Inclusion of the field station in the conference could be a great asset for developing awareness of sustainability issues.
All of these features are eye opening for the un-initiated to the cause of conservation. The field station manager, Jason Kudulis, is a testament to the ability of people to live sustainably as he resides and works fulltime at the station. Kudulis is always willing to respond to questions or concerns about conservation, and more importantly, explain how to translate what is learned at the station into our everyday lives.
General View of the Field Station
Conservation at the field station became a sort of game to outdo previous groups that have visited by limiting our water and energy consumption and trash generation. We stayed well below the national average across the board. The reality is that American individuals unnecessarily generate an average of 1,679 lbs. of trash each year totaling in the neighborhood of 537.280.000.000 lbs. of trash collectively each year. This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of our consumption problems. I want to remind the reader that prior to my trip to the capitol reef station, these problems rarely came across my radar, but these numbers were definitely a wakeup call.
After leaving the field station, I decided I needed to, and was capable of, living a life more structured around sustainability. This included texting my neighbor to ask if I could put my recyclables in his curb side recycle can. I live in an apartment that does not provide this service and after some confused responses from my neighbor wondering why I would want to do that, he agreed. I have often heard people, including prominent activists, deride the idea that if we all make small changes, it will make a big difference. Perhaps their cynical attitudes come from seeing little or no change come about in their lifetimes, but I do believe that cultures change if the will exists. Personally I don’t think we will end up destroying the world with our consumption problems, but I do think we are creating a trash-filled dystopia for our descendants. We would be irresponsible to disregard the effect our decisions have on the future.
Utah Valley University should be commended for the creation of the Capitol Reef Field Station. It is a step in the right direction in creating a more conscientious public.
Christopher Wiltsie, President, Sustainable Mountain Development club at UVU
Photos courtesy of Allen Hill, UVU Honors Advisor