Five months have elapsed since my departure from Cardamom County and Raxa Collective in Kerala — sufficient time, in my opinion, to think back on my experience and growth during my adventures there, as well as the time I have spent back in the United States.
Words cannot express how thankful I am for having been given the opportunity to travel farther and live longer away from home than I ever have before, and in a truly amazing, diverse, and different region of the world than I could ever imagine. The head honchos, Crist and Amie Inman, have an ethos rooted deeply in progressive ecological conservation that is truly admirable, and for the area they are established, borderline revolutionary.
It takes visionaries like them, with a refined appreciation for the natural world influencing their business philosophy, to make an impact; and that in turn influences younger impressionable minds such as myself. The ability to see first-hand what RAXA Collective is trying to accomplish in India, backed by the infectiously positive wildcard George M. George, was nothing short of inspiring. The vast network of local community & regional hires alone was enough to suggest that “community” and “collaboration” are imperative to the mission of Raxa Collective, tethered to the idea that you get back from the community what you give.
Time spent back in the United States has disillusioned me slightly to the fact that there are probably people here working towards similar goals, and there are probably people that hold the same values true as the team back in Kerala, however, one glaring deficiency that has become apparent since my return is that much of my cohort (young 20-somethings) doesn’t truly understand what it means to be a steward of the world. There is a large portion within this demographic merely hitching a ride on the “trendy environmentalist” train, I found this particularly pervasive at Cornell University in upstate New York where there is a perpetuating knack for breeding pseudo-hippies; you can recite as much Thoreau as you want, and drink as much water from a mason jar as you see fit, but that does not make you the lord of nature or the savior of the world.
Ithaca itself is viewed as an oasis for progressive environmental politics and idealism, a shining beacon in a first-world riddled with greed and misery, yet, it is trapped within itself, it is constrained by its own superiority complex that few choose to acknowledge. Yes, Ithaca recycles and composts, and yes, Ithaca values its natural beauty (see: Ithaca is Gorges), but the way Ithaca and Cornell touts their activism is unnervingly contrived, macabrely artificial, and the community suffocates itself with its own pretentiousness. Ironically, the popular Ithaca mantra: “10 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality,” epitomizes its own nescient isolation.
Ithaca reaps very tangible rewards by embracing its sustainable initiatives, however, motivation to share the benefits of ecological conservation or sustainable living disseminates exponentially beyond Ithaca’s borders, a consequence of both Ithaca’s ego as well as outsiders’ ignorance. Thus, the reality of the situation dawned on me… citizens of the United States are disturbingly apathetic towards each other.
My exposure to the people and culture of Kerala, Raxa Collective, and the work of the Inmans hearkened this revelation as I realized that wherever I found myself in India I felt commonality, a sense of shared interest, there was simply an aura of communal spirit amongst the people — they were living their lives together.
The truth is that in the United States we are extremely lucky, and blessed in a way, to reside within a society that allows us to give even passing acknowledgment to environmental issues. Whereas the livelihoods and the daily struggle of the majority of Keralites does not give them an iota of leisure to contemplate the impact they have on the environment. That is a humbling realization I have taken to heart, especially as I recognize that there are many who ignore or don’t understand how even that simple freedom-of-thought gives us power in today’s world.
Thankfully, even in this frustratingly spurious culture, there are still some who are honest and passionate, and thus, my admiration for the Inman tribe extends even more-so by the fact that their son, Seth, is a prime example. I didn’t know what to expect when I first met Seth at Cardamom County, but I really have to hand it to Crist and Amie for producing such a stellar fella’, not only does Seth exude honesty, amiability, and respect, but I think he actually made it out of Cornell untainted by much of the behind-the-scenes poison that goes on and remained true to himself… a rare feat of strength. Seth is someone I could relate to in a way that I could see us being close friends had we attended grade school together; Seth is the kind of guy that I would actually want to do activities with and maintain an intellectual conversation with, both of which we’ve done. Here is a laconic and thoughtful human being with a deeper appreciation and reverence for the natural world.
Seth’s words have weight, and I am certain he’s going to do some big things in his life (Hope Xandari is treating you well)!
I am eager to continue keeping track of Raxa Collective in India as well as their recent movement into Costa Rica with Xandari; I’m especially fond of Amie’s keen eye for aesthetic design (51 looks amazing) — and I will always value my time and the opportunity to experience beautiful Kerala, the life-lessons I learned there, but most of all, the amazing people I met.