Looking back on a summer at Mono LakeSeptember 19th, 2012 by Ben, Mono Lake Intern
As the first splotches of yellow begin to appear in the aspen groves of Lundy Canyon, the time has come for many of us to think about the future. Many interns who spend a summer working for the Mono Lake Committee eventually return to the basin—working either for the Committee or the Park Service or another conservation group. Some interns never leave, and instead slip first into winter seasonal work and then eventually into new roles as their knowledge and skill set grow.
But what about those of us who are headed off to other jobs and divergent paths this fall, and who may return only as visitors: what has a summer in the Sierra meant to us? I suspect that like anything, the answer depends largely on individual disposition, but I wanted to share my thoughts as the summer comes to a close. These thoughts are meant to capture the ways in which the intern experience at the Committee provides links to other causes and other careers.
The first thing that comes to me when I think back over my summer is the power of a dedicated organization. When we explain to the public the nature of our organization—the small staff and dedicated cohort of volunteers—our visitors are always shocked at the amount and quality of work that such a small group of individuals can accomplish if they are dedicated and passionate about the task at hand. This rings true no matter what kind of project you hope to undertake, and is a lesson in the importance of finding the right kind of people for a challenging project—and not always the largest number.
That said, if there is one thing that is stressed repeatedly at the Mono Lake Committee, it is the truism that we could not have accomplished a fraction of what we have without the unyielding support of our members. Interns are continuously reminded that the Mono Lake Committee has been successful—and in fact exists at all—because of the endless support and energy of our members. It is a reminder that no matter how great your organizational structure, leadership, or vision, those qualities will be rendered mute if they are not backed by the force and conviction of a dedicated member base.
And finally, I think that one of the most important lessons of the Mono Lake Committee is that you have to be able to act both in the moment and with an eye towards the more permanent cause. The struggle for Mono Lake was made up of individual moments and decisive choices—but no one moment or rally or meeting saved the lake. Instead, persistence and a long view sustained a campaign across decades and deaths and changes in leadership, and the participants in that cause were wise enough to recognize that while it is easy to make an enemy of those who oppose your goals, the fulfillment of those goals often requires that you sit down and have a civil dialogue with those who disagree with you.
There are certainly more lessons to be found, but those are the thoughts that come to me as I reflect on my summer.