Volunteer Diaries: Haley DePorte, “The Environment Affects us All”

As I made my way to the infamous Empire States building, hoping that I would not get lost, I attempted to line up the questions I was going to ask. I was about to catch a glimpse at the inner workings of Human Rights Watch thanks to Amy Braunschweiger, the Web Communications Manager, and I was having trouble with fathoming how I could possibly approach all the issues that were swimming around in my head. Would I discuss the effect people have on the environment, the effect that environment has on people or would I discuss the true nature of green fuels and products. They all seemed like such different and abstract ideas that I found myself in a state of paralysis and uncertainty.

The lavish hallways of the Empire states building welcomed me in with an air of importance and grace. I was startled by the immense beauty and power that seemed to emanate from the very walls of the building. I stumbled my way up to the 34th floor after passing through all the necessary security clearances. While in the elevator it seemed like time slowed down as if it were allowing me the much needed time to calm down and arrange my thoughts into understandable conversation. Even though I had the rough outline of my questions I still found myself trembling with both anticipation and trepidation.

The elevator doors opened leaving me to finally face my fears and jump into the life of Human Rights Watch. Amy opened the doors with a smile on the face and walked me to her office. We had a busy couple hours ahead of us; first a brainstorm for the days news highlights that would appear on the website and then a meeting with all those who helped run the website. Needless to say I was nervous, I wanted badly to seem nonchalant and mature but inside I was screaming.

We were met in amy’s office by Nora, her amazing intern, who started firing her web site ideas before I could even sit down. I was astounded by how confident and straight to business everything was. It was amazing to see the passion that they both obviously had for the work they were doing. The passion carried on into the meeting with the rest of the team. They spoke of Snowden, Egypt, Syria, and many other issues going worldwide and made the tough decisions on what to highlight on the web page. It was like watching the gears of a clock turn as they all discussed what issues they found most important. I was fascinated not only by their interactions but by how important their choices were. They were choosing what global issues the public would see first and to be in the room when these decisions were being made gave me a jolt of empowerment.

We returned to Amy’s office and I delved into some recent reports as Amy dove into her work. After a while we started to talk and I started asking some questions. I was curious of what she thought of sustainability. Her response really resonated with me. I interpreted what she said as being that harm against the environment is inevitably harm against people. Humanity is so closely linked to the environment that not only do we change earth but earth changes us. We as humans must understand that the changes we make are ones that will impact us. It is a hard concept to wrap your head around, or at least for it has been. Imagine that the metal water bottle that you drink out of drinking out of was in fact manufactured in a factory that polluted it’s water sources and air. The metal water bottle would then still be harmful to the environment and in effect would be harmful to you because your atmosphere was polluted to make it. I guess my point is that it does not matter where the pollution or crimes to the environment happen because it is still polluting our earth. We need to start to see the crimes against nature as crimes against humanity because in all reality they are. Most people would agree that all people deserve the right to a safe and healthy environment yet by polluting and damaging our earth we are not only taking away this right from the affected areas but from ourselves.

By Haley DePorte, 2013 Environmental Education Intern, Human Impacts Institute

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