Class of 2020, Environmental Studies—Sociology
Favorite Campsite: a restored ranch house overlooking the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, at Kane Ranch, Arizona
When David Dregallo applied to Whitman College, he knew he wanted to embark on Semester in the West. There were many other things outstanding about the College: the Environmental Studies department, the men’s Ultimate team, and the chance to reside in a beautiful place far from home. David set SITW as his goal, and came to Whitman to achieve it. This sort of purposeful existence defines him: while on the program, David started looking for new places to live after graduation, comparing each to his home in Vermont. One step after another.
Early on our journey, David realized that the shifting and constantly mobile nature of the program did not fit his preferences. He describes himself as “much more of a sedentary person”, and the whirl of locations and speakers was bewildering. Caught up in his preexisting belief in the grazing methods of Allan Savory, David was surprised to find ecologists like Mary O’Brien who vilify that man and his methods. These differences in opinion are impossible to reconcile, so he followed the advice of collaborative group mediator Steven Daniels: find the areas of agreement, the connections between people and places. Collaborative efforts thrive on these small victories, which David claims is thanks to “respect for people’s ways of life.”
Quickly, David recognized that the passion driving Yellowstone conservationists to protect bison and wolves also fuels volunteers for the Sonoran Institute in Mexico, removing invasive tamarisk trees. These places are thousands of miles apart, and yet there is a strong desire in each to, as David puts it, “make it the best place.” David sees these efforts not as some conscious effort to “fix” the past wrongs of development, but as an innate love for a location and a community.
David seeks to replicate this path in his own life after Whitman. While many environmentalists tend to jump into issues, he “wouldn’t want to go to a place just to fix it.” Still looking for his place (Wallowa County, Northern New Mexico, and Tom Miner Basin were all close, but not perfect), David plans to choose his cause once he arrives, but no sooner. One step after another.
By Mitch Cutter
Photos by Darby Williams and Emma Jones