Why Torchlight?
by Kevin He -- September 28th, 2012

Even among the most devout, there are moments of existential crisis, brief spurts of time when we lose all semblance of motivation for our causes. In some respects, that problem is even more prevalent in the world of conservation. Not only does our cause come with its own ticking time bomb, constantly reminding us that we aren’t doing enough to change the world, but often it seems the entire establishment of world order is built to work against us. Over time, we find ourselves burnt out and lost, wondering why we chose to join the ranks of self-proclaimed conservationists and environmentalists. That state of mind is a difficult one to overcome alone.

My time of reckoning with my own reasons came this past spring. To give a bit of context, in the spring of 2012 I was the orchestral director (and essentially assistant music director as well) for Ragtime, my first time participating in a musical at Duke. For me, music is the ultimate form of expression, and by the time the final performance happened on April 15th, I’d spent around 30 hours in performances and countless more poring over the score or rehearsing the orchestra and cast. Four solid months of my energy ended just like that. In some respects it was the best high I could ask for. What I hadn’t expected was the unending low that came with it.

And in the midst of this cloud of apathy came the following prompt for my environmental ethics course: “What is our moral responsibility to nature in the face of climate change?” How do you “convince others that your answer to the question is worth pondering” when you feel no responsibility? How do you spark fires in others when your own has dimmed?

I spent hours staring at a blank computer screen, and to be perfectly honest, I haven’t found the answer, assuming, of course, that there even is a single proper answer. Instead, I thought about inspiration itself and its importance to the environmentalism. The end product was a poem titled “A Stage to Inspire” which I feel conveys that sentiment much better than I could recreate in prose here (I’ll post it at some point). But, in truth, that was only the first step. In many respects, the journey will be about creativity, about tying together my passion for art and music and the beauty of the natural world, and the fruits of that labor will hopefully be reflected here.


  1. Tawnee
    Sep 28, 2012

    You touch upon an important concept that I think many of us fail to consider when we’re in the midst of a burnout. I’m glad that a “low” has catalyzed your active exploration of one of the greatest “highs” – inspiration!

  2. Marian Keegan
    Sep 30, 2012

    Sometime between graduating with undergraduate degrees in biology and science, working in medical research, and returning to graduate school for forestry, I attended a renewable energy conference where I picked up a “Find Your Place in the Sun” button. This was the late 70’s. Fast forward 30-some years after the renewable energies got buried by cheap oil, and renewed hope for clean energy solutions surfaced…until the promise of cheap energy from natural gas came into play. Looking back, renewable energy solutions have to have a business plan that reaches into all sectors and be competitors at every phase. Otherwise, they will always be vulnerable to being placed on the back-burner.

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