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Lessons and Challenges

Arlo Furst


What has the community of Crestone learned from this experience? Are there lessons that have been unconsciously taught to the people living in the San Luis Valley? What challenges have members of the various spiritual groups encountered since the threat of drilling has entered their lives? The answers to these questions are not simple. In fact, since Lexam’s proposed drilling has had various affects on a number of different people they are rather complex. Each Crestone citizen is a unique individual, meaning that diverse lessons and challenges arise for each person. Yet, the aspect of drilling has truly brought together the numerous spiritual communities in this region in an attempt to save their shared home and sacred land. This has resulted in a number of general lessons and challenges which the larger community has discovered. The three main lessons and challenges experienced by community members of Crestone are Crestone’s own use of gas and oil, defining the drilling and exploration for resources as a universal issue, and the notion of the various spiritual groups uniting as a single voice in opposition of the industrialization.

A significant lesson and challenge that the Crestone community faces today is their reliance on gas and oil from the large supply companies that exist outside the San Luis Valley. Crestone is not an isolated society of subsistence. This fact is highlighted in the countless interview responses that stressed many individuals’ reliance on oil and gas from distant sources. Where is the oil and gas that Crestone community members use coming from? The ironic fact is that it probably comes from another drilling area and is then distributed by an industrial corporation similar to Lexam. Does this make Crestone society members part of the overall problem? Is there a sense of hypocrisy here?

Joy Kells, a volunteer firefighter in Crestone and a member of the Cottonhood Sustainable Co-op touched upon the challenge of subsistence when she said, “I guess I say I am against the gas drilling because I don’t want it in my backyard. That’s all well and good but the fact of the matter is I am still using gasoline in my car and propane to heat my house. Now I am trying to move away from that. I have a family member who is building an electric car. Our home is going to be all packed of an active solar so that we will not be needing propane for that. But we haven’t freed ourselves from that nipple. We are still sucking on it.” The nipple that Joy pointed out is apparent throughout Crestone, as mentioned by many other interviewees. Matthew Crowley of the Shumei Center in Crestone echoed Joy Kells’ comments when he stated, “It is very easy and convenient for us to project our anger and our fear out there into the wildlife refuge where the big bad corporation is coming to exploit the Earth, and as long as we're driving around in our cars -and most of us have propane tanks outside our house -we are part of the problem.”

The reality that much of Crestone is somewhat reliant on outside gas and oil is fully understood by a significant number of Crestone community members, as shown by expressions in their interviews. Yet, there seems to be a general effort to address this issue and examine the larger picture of human beings’ exploitations of resources. This is both a challenge and a lesson currently being learned for Crestone. Many Crestone citizens have learned that they are part of the larger problem of gas and oil consumption. The challenge they face is confronting this issue and figuring out a solution.

The fact that San Luis Valley was recently rated number one in the country for the use of Solar Energy, as well as the fact that many Crestone citizens are attempting to steer clear of a heavy reliance on outside resources, is a positive sign of progress. There are solar panels scattered throughout the Crestone landscape. Concurrently, the same people utilizing solar panels are using cars that rely on gas. Does this give Lexam the right to drill for natural gas on the Crestone land? Some Crestone citizens like John Winter, a Sangha member and program director at Dharma Ocean, see the drilling situation as an opportunity to educate the masses on their own resource use. “I use gas, I heat my home, and I’m relying on the oil that we’re extracting from Iraq just as much as anyone else to live the lifestyle that I’m living. And so I think it can be a really positive wake up call. This is the sign of your culture and your lifestyle and your time and if you’re going to continue living the way that you’re living, prepare to see oil rigs all over the place. Prepare for the land to be devastated.”

Matthew Crowley supported John’s statement when he commented that oil exploration and materialism must be addressed on a “world level.” Many individuals living in Crestone emphasize the importance of not making this situation into an “us versus them” debate. Instead, the situation should be seen as a universal “us” problem. Drilling occurs around the globe and the case of potential Baca drilling is on a piece of National Wildlife Refuge land which belongs to all American citizens, not just Crestone community members.

Lastly, another valuable lesson that has been experienced by Crestone’s citizens is the idea of uniting as a single large community and entity in the struggle to save their shared homeland. Lexam’s proposed drilling threatens the city of Crestone as a whole and the response of many separate spiritual centers has been a community-wide attempt to unite their voices in protest of the industrialization. Robert Demko, a Crestone Subud member, mentions the fact that the Crestone community has, “come together so we can share our concerns and our common and uncommon uses of this land, which has formed a bond and really brought us together with a common view of the threat.” Kristina Cabeza, a Crestone community member, shares Robert’s notion when she says that the situation is “actually bringing us together and saying wow okay there is something bigger than our fighting.” It seems that the myriad of spiritual groups and communities within the San Luis Valley have learned to come together and unite their voices when facing such a monumental threat.

For more information on these issues check out the Sustainability & Renewability and the Symbolic Microcosm & Ironies sections of the website. For more information on each individual mentioned in this text, search the Voices section of the website.

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