How My I-House Experiences Influenced My Career as an Environmental Leader
By David Seaborg, I House 1973-74
I consider myself especially lucky to be, in all likelihood, the only person to have lived in both Hammarskjold House at UC Davis and International House at UC Berkeley. Hammarskjold House, named for the former Secretary General of the United Nations, was a special dorm with an international flavor and living there was an exciting experience. The exposure in I-House to other cultures and customs was more intense and informative than I had ever experienced before. Students from India, Mexico, Trinidad, some African nations and a roommate from Taiwan, Province of China are the most memorable of these.
I lived in International House as a graduate student in zoology and went on to become an evolutionary biologist doing research in evolutionary theory and an activist on global environmental issues. I am the founder and President of the World Rainforest Fund, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to saving the world's rainforests.
The deeper exposure to other cultures and other ways of thinking that I experienced at I-House allowed me to understand how other people viewed the world and what was important to them. It was an eye-opening, mind-opening experience for me. It showed how difficult my passion for solving environmental problems would be to carry out because other people had priorities that did not include what I considered to be the most important issue: saving the planet.
I feel that the environmental crisis is so serious that it will likely lead to the eventual extinction of the human race if we do not change our course to one of behavior that sustains life of earth. Yet, I met students who were equally passionate about such issues as the survival of Israel, rights of Palestinians, women's rights, and how to feed starving people. We had long, interesting discussions that helped me become more realistic about what could be done, how to persuade others, and the challenges in my work. Above all, I came to see the inter-relatedness of all of these problems.
I believe that I am both a more effective advocate for the environment and a better person as a result of the international worldview that I acquired at I-House.