What are your environmental values? | VailDaily.com

What are your environmental values?

Matt Terrell
Val, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyA group of students from Michigan has been doing water research in eastern and western Colorado and have been based near Homestake Reservoir.

RED CLIFF ” For a group of nine Michigan college students, Colorado’s vast wilderness seemed the perfect place to wax philosophical about their environmental values.

How much more high-rise development can our neighboring forests handle? Is disrupting the environment worth the boost in business?

Have we really taken to heart the “Leave no trace” mantra?

Or, are humans basically a lost cause that have done nothing but destroy the world?

These simple, universal questions are being asked by the students of Jack Holes, a political science professor at Hope College, a private liberal arts school in Holland, Mich. Holmes has had a summer home off of Homestake Road since 1969 and says he has been hiking the mountains around here since 1959.

And every year for the past 20 years, he hosts a handful of Hope College students at his home for a seminar class required for graduation.

In this class, he asks the students to examine their personal values and apply them to how we’re taking care of our wilderness and rivers here in Colorado. They spend a few days interviewing people from Denver to Glenwood Springs to learn about all the issues. Their thoughts eventually morph into a 20-page paper, which they piece together while camping under the stars at East Lake Creek.

Such a course wouldn’t have much of an impact in Michigan, the students say.

Here in Colorado, issues like water rights and protecting the wilderness are intense and magnified, where in Michigan, they didn’t think of it much. Sarah Cochrane said she was surprised to find out how big a deal water was in Colorado. In Michigan, there usually seems to be enough in the Great Lakes.

“The environment kind of has to be more important here,” Cochrane said. “I just thought of water coming from a faucet. Now I’ll think more of where it comes from.”

Justin Pratt is a business major who usually thinks like a businessman. He generally likes the idea of development and boosting business, but after spending some time with this research project, sees a greater need to balance development with the environment, he said.

“Being a business major, I was for the development of certain areas, but it’s important to me to see the wilderness and water preserved,” Pratt said.

Overall, the business world has a long way to go in becoming stewards of the environment, he said.

Cochrane is a psychology major, but isn’t sure what her paper will end up being like. She is interested in how people’s attitudes toward the idea of “Leave no trace” has changed over the years.

After interviewing officials with the U.S. Forest service, it seems that people are much better than they used to be at picking up their trash and being careful out in the wilderness, which is a good thing, she said.

Maya Holtrop, a biology major, said she isn’t too fond of the human race in general, and after spending time in Colorado, her opinion hasn’t changed at all.

“It’s hard to see they’ve done a lot of good,” she said.

She hates seeing growing cities and fears the day that there isn’t enough water to go around.

Holmes said his little camp used to be more about collecting water data for different agencies, but now most places have their own, more sophisticated ways of gathering information. So, they switched the focus to a values paper, which also includes their thoughts on family, school and their futures.

“It’s good for them to get their ideas and values on paper before they graduate,” Holmes said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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