Jennifer Shults

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Jennifer Shults

Interview by: Danny Rosenburg

Q: What are some words you would use to describe Oberlin?

A: Small in the good sense, intimate, safe, interesting, liberal, diverse.

Q: Could you tell me more about your commitments and priorities in your work and family?

A: Ive chosen the life that has a family in it. So in that last 10 yearsmy son is 10, I have been working, and of course my work is in helping individuals and groups that Im teaching in learning how to live a more ecological life, which will be healthier for them. I do a lot of practice in my personal life and my family life. I feel very fortunate to have grown up here with my grandparents, my Fairchild grandparents. And to me, our culture desperately needs differentgenerations taking care of each other. Im here to be a part of that with my grandparents, and Im here to be a part of that with my son, who has been homeschooled up until this age. Its just something that weve chosen to do and hell be entering the public schools soon. Part of why weve done that is to instill some of the values that weve been talking aboutreally wanting to have a lot of skills for example he can take you out into the woods and tell you what all the plants are.

Q:What is your definition of sustainability?

A: Well, to me its pretty simple. Sustainability just means that youre able to continue without the system that youre a part of breaking down and no longer functioning. Whether its your economic system or your agricultural system or your own personal health or any kind of system necessary for life, its that it can continue within an equilibrium of health--without coming to a crashing halt.

"Our culture desperately needs the generations taking care of each other."

Q: Are there specific sustainable actions that you take in your life?

A: In my family and personal life we eat very well and part of that is supporting sustainable agriculture as much as we possibly can so that that system can remain a sustainable system. And we refuse to participateas much as were able to, but of course no one can perfectly --with the corporate agriculture and the consumer culture with junk goods that are depleting the environment. We have done a lot of energy improvements in our house. Just last year we put in a lot of extra insulation in the attic and we kind of closed down the upstairs and shut off the heat up there for the winter. We have a wood stove, that we do part of our heat with. We have a garden and grow some of our own food. We have a CSA and were part of a dairy co-op and we get grass-fed meat from an Amish farmer, so were supporting all those folks. I believe in small is beautiful. My office is small and I keep that simple as well so theres not a lot of overhead there. My whole work is about helping people be sustainable in their health. When I was younger I used to worry about not doing enough a lot, and I would feel bad about it, but I decided thats not the culture we want to createwe want to create a happy and hopeful culture so I feel good about what I do. I realize no ones perfect.

"Love and compassion is a much better motivator than fearfulness."

Q: What are the benefits of adding a little each year and staying hopeful?

A: Well, I feel so much better. And holistic health is my field, and to me, love and compassion is a much better motivator than fearfulness. This is an intense world. Theres a lot of beautiful wonderful stuff here, and theres a lot of scary, out of balance things and part of me, for sustainability, feels that were not as good as we could be at focusing on the beautiful stuff and the good stuff. Because thats the stuff thats highly motivating. We need to not have our heads in the sand. If youre focusing too much on the negative stuff, it doesnt help. It actually paralyzes you a little bit.

Q: Yes, but its hard to find that balance especially when motivating other peopleit seems like the go to sentiment is you should be guilty about this.

A: Yes, its very hard, and thats actually a major theme in my work. And, its one of the major roots of health the idea of feeling really good about who you are, and then using that to make choices to keep you feeling good. And then there are the things that we cant change that are troubling and that we have to learn to make peace with.

Q: Is there any message youd like to share with the community, because this is a chance to broadcast it!

A: I think if I had anything more to say to the community it would be about listening and caring. I think we do pretty good job here in Oberlin, but were still a part of a bigger culture and world and we have so many people here from all walks of life with great things to say and to offer. More listening, and more starting from respect, and more caring about each persons perspective. I think the students have this idea that the college is all sustainable, if only we could educate the town, and actually in many ways, the town is ahead of the college. The best thing to do is to see whos coming from a good heartthat theyre doing the best they can, and you want to support everyone whos doing the best they can. If you come from that point of view, its a lot easier to help someone face the mistakes their making.

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