Community is More Than Imagined

Community is More Than Imagined

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” –Howard Zinn

When everyone around is feeling, moving, and experiencing the same thing that you are is something far greater than first imagined. It is that moment at a concert when the stage falls silent, and everyone is screaming for an encore. It is that moment of feeling like you are a part of something bigger. It is being a part of a community that is setting out to change something far greater than imagined.

My goal at the Shi Center as the Student Outreach and Communications Fellow is to create a community that strives for something far greater than imagined. It sounds a little ambitious, but the goal of sustainability science is to meet the needs now without compromising the needs of the future. The fellows at the Shi Center are working together to create a more sustainable campus with ambitious, goal-oriented, and strong ideas.

As a fellow’s cohort, not only do we work together, but we also plan and attend events, go to regular meetings, and explore Greenville and Travelers Rest’s local food options. Being a fellow is more than just working, it is being a part of something that could start a change everywhere else in the world.

What would you do if you could change the world?

Food As We Know It


By: Demi Marshall

For the longest while, I’ve been purchasing certified USDA Organic products. Before working at Whole Foods Market, I never really knew what it meant for a product to be considered USDA Organic. However, after a dreadful three-days-worth of training videos, I can confidently tell you what it means for a product to be certified USDA Organic. For a product to get the USDA Organic Certification, it must be made with 90% or more organically-derived ingredients. However, salt and water are the two exceptions to being deemed organic, because no such classification exists. As I watched more videos and took an array of practice quizzes, I started thinking how bizarre the American food system really is.

As consumers, Americans shouldn’t feel like they’re stepping on a battlefield when they go to the grocery store. Our relationship with food has completely diminished to us nit picking every little ingredient on nutrition labels, while patting ourselves on the back when we see the words “Fair Trade” on a product we’re purchasing. As we browse the aisles at a grocery store, we think to ourselves, “I’m a good Samaritan, because I know the food I eat is certified USDA Organic, free-range, Non-GMO, and Fair Trade.” But really, is that enough? Personally, I think not. Supporting local agriculture and getting to know how the food you consume is sourced is crucial to appreciating it. Before working on a farm, I had no clue how to harvest potatoes, nor did I realize squash and zucchini can grow to be over a foot long in length. Why did I not know any of this information prior to working on a farm? Well, the answer is quite simple; I had no relationship with food prior to this fellowship position.

This disconnect is a product of mass-production, technological advancement, and societal pressures. Gathering, preparing, and consuming food has become more of a chore, rather than a leisurely activity. After an 8-hour workday, most people want something quick, filling, and cheap. Local, sustainably-sourced produce and livestock doesn’t necessarily fit the bill. In-order-to have a relationship with food, one must also change his or her lifestyle. There won’t be any fast food restaurants or grocery stores that will cater to your newfound needs. Building a relationship with food entails taking time out of your day for it, whether that be waking up early on a Saturday to go to the farmer’s market or tending to a vegetable garden in your backyard. Ultimately, the power lies within the consumer to decide whether or not he or she wants to build a relationship with food. Luckily, it’s never too late to start.

River Report Card Fellow



By: Jack Waller

Coming into the position as the “River Report Card Fellow,” I expected to learn more about water quality levels and South Carolina’s upstate region. However, the most memorable event that I have had the pleasure of being a part of was a strengths building retreat with the members of the Upstate Forever office.

Upstate Forever has done a great job of establishing themselves in the environmental community, and it has been very fulfilling learning about all of the procedures this office has to go through in order to make these environmental feats a reality. Though, the team building experience taught me more about myself self and how I work best in an office environment, which will be useful for the rest of my life.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment, through a process similar to the Myer Briggs Type Indicator, identifies an individual’s five core strengths. Now after having taken the Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment, I now know how to better market myself for whatever position I may pursue in the future.

As a recent graduate of Furman, I have no idea where I could end up in the professional world, but now that I know my strengths, what they mean and I have a better idea of where I should be. Not to mention, I learned a great deal about my co-workers through group discussions about our strengths. One thing for sure is I hope to work in an office that cares as much about its office unity as Upstate Forever.

Community Outreach to Promote Sustainable Health Outcomes


By: Jason Hirsch

Americans across the country are effected by Healthcare, but those individuals who lack resources can be effected exponentially more. Many people know how expensive a trip to the hospital can be, so they try to avoid it at all costs. They use other means of accessing care in the form of primary care physician visits and over the counter medications to alleviate diseases in their early stages. There are individuals who do not necessarily have this choice, though.

These individuals are usually of a lower socioeconomic status (SES) and lack resources, such as transportation, money, and the knowledge of what types of health care are appropriate for them. They will often neglect their health until it gets to the point where they must call an EMT to remedy their life-threatening state. While this might help the patient to gain access to transportation, it will cost them a substantial amount of money. An ambulance ride is $600 dollars before factoring in the mileage and resources used and can be well over $1000 if more advanced procedures are needed. After their taxi ride over to the hospital, the patient will pay about $1200 on average for their stay. For a person without a surplus of money, this is a detrimental blow to their bank account; and for those who are on Medicaid, this type of behavior can be costly to hospital systems and subsequently everyone else who uses its resources.

So how can we solve this issue? I am starting to find out through the work I am involved with this summer.

My Shi Center Student Fellowship allows me to work with AccessHealth Greenville, an organization that addresses health promotion in low income populations, and one of the ways they do this is in the form of reducing overutilization of emergency services. In my first week, I got to ride along with partner organization staff members to mine called Neighborhood Health Partnerships (NHP). The objective of NHP is to reach out to individuals with easily preventable health issues that could cause them to end up in the hospital and offer them services/ access to health care before their condition worsens.. They do this in a number of ways: coordinating rides to doctor’s appointments, advising patients on how to incorporate these appointments into their busy schedules, and generally establishing a relationship with the patient.

On my ride with the NHP care team, I saw five patients. Each of these patients had a stories to tell and issues to face. Throughout the day I learned how important the relationship development aspect of the care team’s work is to successful outcomes. The two team members both had patients who they had better relationships with, so they would switch off who leads the visit to accommodate that patient-provider dynamic. It was easy to tell that the patient was comfortable speaking (even with a strange fellow tagging along) because the interaction flowed more like a friendly conversation rather than a doctor’s appointment. This relationship also made patients much more accepting of advice and recommendations.

As a student pursuing a career as a physician, I recognize that the provider-patient relationship is crucial. From this experience I not only got to see what some patients’ lives are like outside of the clinic, I also got to observe how a good relationship with a patient can lead to patient compliance. This will lead to better outcomes for low income patients down the road saving them (as well as the hospitals) financial burdens.

The Tree of Life—Grace McCartha

The Tree of Life—Grace McCartha

The tree of life. The tree of knowledge. The Christmas tree. The evolutionary tree. The world tree. Trees have been important and popular symbols in cultures both ancient and modern across the world. The tree of life metaphor existed in ancient Persian, Egyptian, Chinese, Norse, and North American societies, to name a few. In Egypt, the Acacia tree (Acacia sp.) was considered the tree of life, enclosing life and death within it. Trees have also been important symbols in many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islamism, and Judaism. In Buddhism, the Bo tree (Ficus religiosa) was the tree under which Buddha was enlightened and today, many shrines are built under it. In the story of Adam and Eve, the tree of knowledge of good and evil is an important symbol in Christianity, Islamism, and Judaism. Even Charles Darwin used the tree of life metaphor when explaining the phylogenetic tree that connects all organisms through common descent.

Why do trees hold such importance for us? For countless reasons! They provide a sense of refuge and stability but they also add beauty to our environment. More practically, trees improve landscaping and increase property value. They also provide resources like food, oxygen, and wood and can provide shelter, shade, and habitat for many animals and even other plants. Trees take up carbon dioxide (helping to combat climate change) and the help reduce runoff and slow soil erosion.

Over this past year and last summer, I have been the Arbor Fellow at Furman University, working to expand and publicize the George G. Willis Jr. Arboretum on campus by labeling trees and creating a web map of tree locations. An arboretum is a collection of labeled trees made available to the public for educational purposes. They help to preserve trees, provide beautiful green spaces, and increase appreciation for trees. Furman’s arboretum has been accredited since 2014 and strives to include mostly native species. So far, there are over 80 tree species labeled and over 273 individually labeled trees. The labels include information like common and scientific names, family, and where the species is native to. The online map shows tree locations and includes label information, along with descriptions of the species’ importance and its identifying features. There are paths around the lake, by the Shi Center, by the North Village creek, in the woods by Younts, and by the Plyler science building for people to enjoy the arboretum. Furman is fortunate to have as many trees on campus as we do and by expanding Furman’s arboretum, we can foster people’s appreciation and respect for trees and nature.

Finding Happiness as an ‘Angry Black Bird’- Jordan Wolfe

As many know from the media and daily experiences, racism is still prominent and very negative in America. However, many do not know that it is also a dilemma in some environmental science fields. Dr. Drew Lanham, one of the few African Americans in the scientific field of bird watching, went against the odds and proved to the many that didn’t believe in him that he could succeed. Although he grew up in a religious family in rural South Carolina, he found his sanctuary in nature. Since he was young, his main form of worship was in the outdoors, his most sufficient form of medicine.

Dr. Lanham doesn’t believe conservation and the way we gather data about our world should be biased. White isn’t always right when it comes to preserving our world for future generations. Conservation is to love, it’s to be equally accepting, embracing, and inclusive. According to Dr. Lanham, conservation comes down to how much you care. That was his main message when he visited the Shi Center and he’s spent his whole life showing how much he cares, despite the lack of diversity and the increasing amount of criticism in his career. As a student, and now tenure professor at Clemson University, he has taught himself to not be self-limiting, to not box yourself in. Although society, and even his family, told him he shouldn’t be a birder, he persevered because he knew he was smart enough to play the game and learned to look at the world differently.

After changing his major from mechanical engineering to zoology, he thought his only job could be zookeeping. Which he told us he originally pursued, and was head deep in joyous increment three days a week. But eventually, he pushed back, he jumped the rails ethically and changed his personal mission statement: who you are, follow the fundamental tenets of being: choice, freedom and happiness. Dr. Lanham wants every individual to have their own mission statement, to be who they are and push their own limits. He didn’t want to be seen as ‘the angry black bird,’ but a respected individual. He understands the southern land he works on, and acknowledges the social problems within it and the racial history that took place. Birds don’t discriminate based on color, and humans shouldn’t either. Communication is key; for we are all so much more than we claim.

Dr. Lanham is a professor at Clemson University as well as an active birder. Read his poem, “9 Rules for the Black Bird Watcher” here:

Let’s Talk Compost: Beautiful Bacteria – Tindall Ouverson

Let’s Talk Compost: Beautiful Bacteria – Tindall Ouverson

Nothing blows my mind more than coming to terms with the fact that so much of what we see and take for granted hinges on the world that exists naked to the human eye. Think about all of the molecular compounds that make up our physical world, from single-celled organisms to the tallest of mountains. Consider the billions of bacteria happily coexisting inside of your intestines, doing you an irreplaceable service, or the phytoplankton floating in the ocean that are a priceless source of our oxygen. The processes that happen around us are made possible by the most unassuming of participants; they are essential, but not often recognized.

Take compost, for example. That beautiful transition from your unfinished salad and last fall’s leaves to what gardeners call “Black Gold” is driven by the voracious appetites of several different kinds of small organisms. We can see the macrobes (worms, varieties of beetles, black soldier fly larvae, millipedes) but we cannot see the microbes that are the driving force behind decomposition. Without them, we’d be wading in organic matter, and soil – one of our most important and underrated nonrenewable resources – would not be able to successfully regenerate. Looking at the decomposition process at a macroscopic scale ironically misses the bigger picture, but scaling down to the microscopic world gives you the best one.

We can look at the decomposition within a compost pile as a process that occurs in phases. In the first phase, cold-loving psychrophiles kick off the party in the compost heap. The bacterial activity – eat, excrete, reproduce, repeat – slowly begins to heat up the pile from the center outwards. Macrobes are driven to the edges of the pile, and psychrophilic activity levels off. At this new level of temperature, mesophilic bacteria take over. This large category of bacteria comfortably exists in wide range of temperatures, so they end up doing most of the decomposition work in the second phase. Eventually, their hard work makes large portions of the pile unsuitable for all but the most extreme: the thermophiles. Often found in thermal springs (think Yellowstone), thermophiles can handle living in temperatures above the boiling point of water. Within the compost pile, their time is glorious but short-lived. At this point in the decomposition process, human and plant pathogens of concern die off. Within three to five days of this third phase, thermophiles use up available resources and start to become inactive when their decreasing activity levels lead to a drop in temperature. In the fourth phase, mesophilic bacteria once again take center stage while macrobes reintroduce themselves in cooler sections of the pile. As the compost matures, a type of bacteria called actinomycetes may grow in large numbers and become visible as white fungus-like fuzz. Mature compost is stable, nutrient-rich, and ready for use as a soil amendment (not a soil replacement) on gardens and lawns.

Soil management and good compost is all about maintaining a healthy soil food web; with current industrial agricultural practices, we tend to overlook the importance of biodiversity in soil. If you blanket spray fungicides and pesticide over a field, you will not only destroy the organisms that can cause crops distress but also your best microscopic tools for success. You can grow food in “dead” soil with enough synthetic fertilizer, but over time the gains of crop production and overall ecosystem health are less compared to what soils with healthy populations of beneficial microbes can do. Whether they live in a compost heap or in our soils, we need these “beautiful bacteria” because they play a huge role in regulating the ecosystems we depend on. So, show some love for the things unseen and thank the microbes the next time you throw your banana in the compost pile.