March 4, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Lorelei Smillie | Photo by Rikki Held
Lots of things draw students to Colorado College — the block plan, the small size, and the liberal arts education, to name a few. These are all incredible things, but the biggest draw has always been the crunchy, outdoorsy culture.
Nature is quintessentially CC. Our student body hinges on outdoor culture. People come here because of the proximity to nature and abundance of opportunity to explore and play outside.
Ironically, lots of students find themselves more disconnected from nature here than in big cities or suburbs. I live in a particularly woodsy neighborhood in upper Manhattan, and I feel more Thoreau-esque in NYC than I do here.
This is not to say that the picturesque Rockies behind the Preserve are not enchanting. However, they remain tantalizingly out of reach, flattened into the horizon and existing as merely a pretty view.
Where is this disconnect coming from? For most students I spoke to, the issue was the lack of easy transportation. If you can’t drive or aren’t accustomed to the local pubic transportation, it can be easy to feel stuck on campus.
Many students also feel that there’s a sense of exclusivity in the culture of hiking, skiing, and biking. If you’re not constantly bragging about the 14’er you took on last weekend, you’re not really a climber.
I would argue that this comes from the effort you need to put in to connect with nature. You need to establish a plan to get to a mountain and walk on it. Luckily, one on-campus resource to address this problem is CC’s very own Outdoor Education, which hosts a variety of trips for all students and takes care of the planning. Still, not everyone knows about these trips, and taking the individual initiative to plan a trip can be difficult.
Although there are some spaces that are more secluded, the most accessible and commonly recognized outdoor spaces which do exist a few minutes’ drive away are pretty touristy and industrialized. Garden of the Gods, a popular tourist destination, sports a gigantic bronze plaque on one of the rock formations declaring this land to be a gift to the city of Colorado Springs.
There are a few possible solutions to this problem.
- Moving the CC campus
If we all tried really hard, I think all 2,000 students could lift up each building on campus and move it closer to the mountains. We’re all on the same class schedule, so afternoons are free for this project, and we could even offer adjunct credit.
- Give everyone a free car.
Let the econ majors examine the budget and we’ll see if we can’t find some wiggle room for all students to receive a free Tesla upon acceptance.
- Improve awareness about public transportation
As for the most rational solution: public transportation is a magical, wonderful thing which should be one of the top priorities when planning cities. Thankfully, CC students can ride for free on city buses using their gold cards. However, awareness surrounding this possibility is not mainstream among the student body. Knowing that this option exists might be helpful in feeling more connected to the natural spaces surrounding campus.
There are many larger issues with the way many major United States cities are designed, as well as society’s connection to Earth as a whole. This strikes a major chord in anyone conscious of the environment as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change releases its latest report on the devastating effects of climate change in the world.
CC’s disconnect is not unique: it plagues every human who lives in any kind of built civilization in the U.S. We have practically severed our connection to the planet, and the idea that we have to make nature a “destination” is proof of how we have become alienated from the land.
I’m not saying we all need to sleep on Tava to restore our union with the dirt. However, I do think it’s worth some thought to consider how even and especially at a school like CC, the mere existence of an outdoors culture suggests that there’s something wrong.