Hello World

Post by Spring 2017 Intern, Marcus Henderson.

Hello world,

My name is Marcus and I am an intern here at Community Rebuilds (CR). I’ve only been here for three weeks but I am already falling in love with CR and Moab. On our third day here, all the CR interns and staff hiked the Portal Trail. At the top, we sat on the edge of a reddish brown sandstone slab overlooking Moab Valley and the tiny adventure town it shelters.

At the Museum of Moab, we learned the dramatic story of this small town in the middle of the desert. A lot has changed here since it landed on the map in 1880 as part of a mail route. But if there’s one thing that has stayed consistent, Moab has always been a sanctuary for crazies; first the outlaws of the Wild West, then the uranium prospectors of the 1950’s and 60’s, and now adventure addicts.

Speaking of crazies, I was gifted Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey on my way to Moab from Northern California. The book completely changed my perspective of the desert. Abbey was a strong environmental advocate and spoke strongly against the expansion of roads in Arches National Park. Upon arrival, I couldn’t help but wonder what Moab must have been like before the floods of tourists in their “machines” came rushing in.

The impact of tourists on Moab hasn’t only been environmental. There have also been social ramifications due to the highly seasonal flows of money into the town. Famous for its national parks and adventure activities, Moab draws millions of people from all over the world during its peak season. But after the end of the uranium boom, Moab was left with no real industries, forcing full-time residents to fend for themselves by working odd jobs around town during the off season.

With very little income, many Moab residents are forced to live wherever they can afford. For many, this means a poorly insulated pre-76 trailer used during the Uranium boom to house workers. Instead of attempting to solve this affordable housing crisis, the city government has chosen to direct funds toward capital projects and infrastructure improvements to increase Moab’s capacity for seasonal tourists.

Instead of rethinking this obviously flawed growth mindset, cities all over the world are committing huge amounts of resources toward upgrading infrastructure while people continue to live in unfit conditions. CR is attempting to solve the affordable housing crisis in Moab by creating an organization that grows from within. Like a tree, year after year a new concentric ring is formed, allowing the organization to reach higher. The volunteer interns represent that new ring and even though we are green we bring life to the organization. We build upon what was done before and increase the exposure of the program with the support of the preexisting structure built by past interns and current staff.

Our assistant supervisors are former CR interns that will both go on to become lead builders next season. The CR program also partnered with Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture Institute to start a natural building program on the Hopi Reservation. The program is expected to be fully independent next year with all of its instructors, apprentices, and interns coming from within Hopi community. These examples highlight the two most important abilities of any sustainably growing organization: regeneration and replication. Sustainable growth has become a catch phrase used by organizations all over the world. Purely in the economic sense, it defines growth that can be sustained by the current inflow of money. But a truly sustainably growing organization must do so without harming its members or the environment.

CR utilizes the highly available resource of unemployed millennials, like many other companies and organizations, but does so in a way that empowers us. As an intern, $100 a month to work 40 hours a week isn’t much—but I feel fulfilled.  Some may say that I’m being exploited but the real issue isn’t the exploitation of unemployed millennials but their disempowerment.

Many millennials are choosing to be unemployed or work for less because the jobs available either lack fulfillment, decent wages, health insurance, reasonable hours, or worse…all of the above. Jobs that allow millennials to stop living paycheck to paycheck, enjoy their lives, and live up to their ethics are necessary if we wish to solve millennial unemployment. In order to do this millennials must be empowered with skills that allow them to define their own paths.

In combination with empowering millennials and building affordable housing, CR is also expanding the natural building market by improving building codes, creating skilled laborers, and spreading the word. Through CR and similar programs, natural building and natural building related professionals will eventually get paid what they deserve. But we all have to start somewhere so here I am.

I’m really grateful to be living amongst such a great group of diverse minded and unevenly angled individuals. We have only just begun building. The foundation has been poured and there’s no turning back now. Check back for more about the build and our lives here in Moab.

-Marcus

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