Goleta native Chris Salcedo heads to Ankara, Turkey, to try and figure out how we, as a global community, are going to fix this whole environmental problem. Follow Chris as he attempts to discover if and how Islamic culture helps or hinders ideas of sustainability.

I’m a Goleta local, that’s probably why I care about the environment so much. Going to school my entire life in the Goodland — where a big part of the modern environmental movement started — I was introduced at an early age to ideas of sustainability and how to integrate these ideas into my daily life. Flash forward 24 years, I have graduated from Dos Pueblos, SBCC, and finally made it to (and graduated from) UCSB. I did it; I beat the statistics.

You see, I grew up in the housing projects in Goleta. (Yeah, there are housing projects in Goleta and I loved living in there.) Being the son of a Mexican immigrant and growing up in an impoverished and marginalized area of town has made me pretty proud of getting to where I am, coming from where I’m from. I am indebted and thankful to all of the teachers I have ever had. When I hear people speaking their minds about the immigration problem, I let them know really quickly that my father came here illegally when he was 20 years old and now has three children who have graduated from American universities (two from UCSB) and another successful, happy son. I am the dream; now I am living mine.

When I got to the university, I was a double major in Global Studies and Environmental Studies, which quickly changed my first time leaving Goleta and traveling half-way across the world. I was given the opportunity to volunteer in the Solomon Islands on community-based resource management projects. This adventure, needless to say, was an amazing and unique educational experience and I quickly learned how much more religion and culture have to do with environmentalism than the actual “science” behind it. The synthesis of traditional conservation techniques (influenced by thousands of years of island life), with Evangelical Christianity imposed by a couple centuries of colonialism, combined to serve as a weird catalyst to their environmental movement. Witnessing this phenomenon influenced my thinking on how we could make changes here in the United States and what aspects of our own society we needed to address. On my arrival back to the States I decided to change my second major to Religious Studies and focus on the connections that exist between religious worldviews and environmental and sustainable movements here in the U.S. and all over the world.

So here I am now, done with UCSB and on my way to Ankara, Turkey. Grants and scholarships have made this trip possible; I wrote my ass off to get them. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is funding a big part of this journey on account of a project I proposed to them, a project that involves the topics I have outlined above: Turkey, Islam, and The Independent. The specifics of this research mission fall into the same line. Turkey, a predominantly Islamic society — with a secular government — is dealing with the same pressures of modernity, globalization, sustainability, and environmental degradation that everyone else, including us, are dealing with. I want to do research to see what aspects, if any, of an Islamic culture help or hinder ideas of sustainability in hopes, of course, that the readers of The Independent can integrate these ideas into their daily routines and, at the same time, learn something about Islamic cultures.

I have some goals in mind to prep for this trip. The first thing I have to do is get a better grasp of the Qu’ran, the Islamic holy text. I’ve studied Islam pretty thoroughly in a couple classes, but if I am going to speak about something, I better know at least know the basics. Secondly, I have to check out current green legislation already set forth in Turkey and see what factors have contributed to these laws like homegrown environmental movements, international pressure, etc. But the biggest thing is to get on that plane, land safely, put my bags down, head to a Turkish café, order a Turkish coffee and then, only then, I can get back to all of you.


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