Posted by: Staff | 02.22.2010

College Essay XXVI: Charles Haverty ’10


Since eighth grade I’ve gravitated towards Buddhism to center myself and prevent negative thoughts from controlling my actions. As often as possible, I sit down and meditate, ridding my body and mind of unhappiness and concentrating on positive things. In my stress-filled junior year, however, I lost my “ability” to meditate. Whether it was because I had too much work or because there was something wrong with my spirit, I didn’t know. All I knew was that without meditation, I could rarely relax, both with my own issues and broader ones, such as global warming.

This summer I went on a community service trip to Costa Rica. However, this essay isn’t about the poor people I saw there or how well off I am and how I need to appreciate what living in Lexington means. What happened in Costa Rica was a spiritual revitalization and awakening to the world as a whole; specifically, my role in stopping climate change and how that gave me back my meditation.

All my life, I’ve learned about global warming. Especially at Beaver, presentation after speaker after forum has given me a front-row seat to our impending destruction. What made this onslaught acceptable at first was its optimism: it’s not inevitable, there’s still so much we can do! Soon, however, my generation’s negative attitude broke through. Watching An Inconvenient Truth, I wondered if we had done this much damage, was it just a matter of using less fossil fuels? Wasn’t this an unstoppable series of events started by people long before me? I took all of these questions to heart. I turned off the lights more often and took the train, but in the back of my head this “inevitability” never let me relax. Whatever I did wouldn’t be enough to offset the problems I inherited.

How does Costa Rica connect to global warming? Our trip was spent on a farm in the Paraíso district called “Finca La Flor.” As our two-hour bus ride jerked to a halt, I looked around and saw not a typical farm but a lush forest. I knew I was entering an entirely unfamiliar environment. Within days I was sweaty, dirty and most importantly, starving. I like being a carnivore, but the farm kitchen was 100% vegetarian, leaving me without the normal building blocks of my diet. If my application came with a full-body picture of me, you’d see I couldn’t afford to lose the ten pounds I lost in the first four days. As we approached our first day off farm work, I wished with every fiber of my being that a family-size bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken would fall from the heavens.

On that day, two of the farmers, David and Vinicio, led us into the forest surrounding the farm. Walking over wooden bridges and under waterfalls, I was speechless before the majesty of the forest. There was no end to the diversity, no end to the beauty. There were plants that “fell asleep” when you touched them, trees that stretched up past the canopy, flowers of every color. It was the most spectacular place I’ve ever beheld. Here’s a fact about the forest: Bridget, the owner of the farm, had purchased fifteen acres of bare land and designated five of them for farming. The other ten were left for “reforestation.” This was in 1999. I was standing in a beautiful forest that didn’t exist when I was seven years old.

This was my awakening, my realization not just of my place, but all our places in the world. Global warming isn’t unstoppable; it’s a matter of doing the right things. Imagine if a new tree were planted in every American yard. Or two. Or ten. Imagine starting your own forest. My time in Costa Rica showed me that anyone can stop climate change and that no amount of defeatism can stop me from achieving my dreams. It’s just a matter of digging a few holes and grabbing a watering can.

After my trip into the forest, I considered giving up KFC, becoming a vegetarian and changing my entire life, but the thought of giving up all my pleasures was daunting. What came to me next was the most important lesson; I didn’t have to change everything in my own life to help the world. I could take my discoveries and share them with others. Crossing my legs, I closed my eyes and meditated for the first time in over a year. The world was in trouble, but it wasn’t up to me to fix it all. This realization helped me save myself, and it will help me try to stop global warming as I move forward in life. At the end of my trip to Costa Rica, I found the answer, or at least part of the answer, to one of the world’s greatest problems, but I also found my own answer, my own spirit.



  1. This is a terrific essay and I am so glad you rediscovered your inner zen. Having stood in the rain forest in Costa Rica, you brought me back to it! Thank you!

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