What are some of the unique ways that you have observed people in your host country/city engage in to (a) address environmental issues, and (b) promote civic responsibility?
Being in the heart of Washington, DC during an election year has been an amazing experience. Though Allegheny College has a healthy and active political sector, it simply cannot compare to the teeming mass of political involvement that is our nation's capital. In the days leading up to the historic election, there was no way to avoid either partaking or overhearing political discussions at any and all hours. No joke--during bailout week I actually heard two junior high school students intelligently and seriously discussing the pros and cons of heightened financial regulation on the metro.
So it's easy to imagine that environmental and civic responsibility would be as common as federal buildings in our Nation's capital, and I think it's probably true. Two stories spring immediately to mind, and both make today's youth look pretty good.
Several Washington semester programs take enrolled students to other countries for a few weeks; it so happens that one room in my hall would be entirely empty for a few weeks, all the occupants doing their thing overseas. The night before, the girls weren't worried about which nail polishes to bring or if they needed to bring all of their fancy shoes with them; they were devising a strategy to unplug all their major appliances before they left (this practice, as you might know, conserves a great deal of energy). Eventually, they recruited a friend to unplug everything while they were away, and almost started a fight; "Do you promise to remember? Do you need me to call you to remind you to unplug our stuff? Are you sure you'll remember? It's really important to me..."
As far as civic responsibility goes, I will say this: I'm almost positive that more people in this program voted by absentee ballot than my friends from high school voted in total. Kids who can't even co ordinate a time to eat dinner fill out all the required forms to get their vote in college and hometowns hundreds of miles away. Unbelievable (and pretty cool!).