By Adelina Alcarez
We started out the week by coming back from our Swakopmund stay, a touristy German town, and ended our week in NaDEET, a camp-like area on the Namib Reserve at which there was no wifi and mounds of sand, all kinds of creepy crawlies, and oryxes for miles around us. Needless to say, NaDEET was my favorite excursion of the week.
In between, we attended a couple of class on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Personally, I went to a couple of churches for my internship at an LGBTI human rights organization. A colleague of mine, Mickey, and I have been working on constructing a list of churches that are tolerant to the LGBTI community and measuring their tolerance. We do this by interviewing a leader of the church (if possible) and giving them a survey about their relationship with the LGBTI community. Thus far, most of the various places of worship have been a little apprehensive, yet welcoming and willing to talk with us. On Wednesday, we went to two churches. Both gave us a perplexing look when we first introduced ourselves. However, they were still willing to direct us to someone to talk to. I think that our experiences with churches may suggest that Namibia is ready to talk about LGBTI issues and even support their human rights, if well educated about them. What better place to start this conversation then with the system at which many members have shamed people for being part of the LGBTI community in the 16 century and many continue to make being LGBTI taboo today.
|Description of the dry toilet system.|
On Thursday, we left for NaDEET. NaDEET is a place to learn about sustainable eating, pooping, wasting, and cleaning. There is a dry, no-flush toilet. When dried, a person’s total amount of yearly poop can be just enough to fill a bucket. On top of that, there are dung beetles decomposing the poop at the very bottom, at least 6 feet underground. Their electricity was also powered by solar panels and food made mostly from solar cookers. Solar cookers look like large metal disks used to communicate with alien life, but they actually concentrate the sun's ray on the pot. They also had solar cooker in box form. There was a cup or bucket of water for the sinks and showers because there was no faucet; albeit, the shower did have a bucket attached to a shower head. I was astonished at how well the showers worked like a regular shower and how much water I could save by lowering the water pressure a little bit and not using water when I didn’t need it (like while I was washing and not rinsing). This tied in with the 17 sustainable development goals.
Surprisingly, the goals did not stop on issues directly associated with environment, but also social and economic issues like gender equality and poverty. On Friday, we went on a Dune Walk (which was more like a hike for me) and talked about the biodiversity of the Namib Desert. We encountered interesting creepy-crawlies like the Dancing Lady Spider and various fast pace beetles and a couple of oryxes. Something we also focused on was how connected each species is to each other; everyone’s actions can create a domino effect. For example, one year, there was a huge increase in the moth population. It is unknown why, but our guide Elias suspected it was because a predator to the moths was in low population. This created in influx of moth cocoons all over the desert. The oryxes mistook the cocoons for food. A moth infestation killed a large portion of the oryxe population that year.
|Solar cookers. Not to be confused with alien|
Later that day and weekend, we continued to learn about and live a more sustainable lifestyle. We watched a documentary about the NamibRand Nature reserve and NaDEET’s place within it. The reserve all started with one rich man who bought a lot of cheap land in Namibia to preserve it. It was rough in the beginning, but now it’s not only a place of animal preservation; it’s a place for research, a dark sky reserve, tourism, and environmental and sustainability education. I am so blessed to have been able to visit and learn from such an amazing place. I hope to put the education I learned here into practice and not only use less water and push for renewable energy, but also to educate myself about the environmental issues in the area I live in. This experience has changed my perspective on what role I play on this earth: to help protect it and protect the people who live in it. What a great week.