Spotlight on a Westie: Juan Pablo Liendo Molina

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Juan Pablo Liendo

Class of 2021, Environmental Studies—Politics

Caracas, Venezuela

Favorite Campsite: a grassy meadow among ponderosa pine, overlooking Winthrop, Washington, and the Methow Valley

The road to the American West was long for Juan Pablo, or JP, as everyone knows him. Born in Venezuela, his school experience took him to UWC Robert Bosch College (UWCRBC) in Germany, then to its sister school in China, UWC Changshu, as a resident assistant and student mentor. JP was guided to Whitman College by its Environmental Studies department and its reputation as a sustainable school.

Sustainability has interested JP for a long time. Venezuela is a country largely dependent on its reserves of oil, and while that has lent the nation immense “environmental privilege,” Venezuela has not sought to diversify their sources of energy. In contrast, Germany is well-regarded as among the world’s leaders in sustainable development; the mission of UWCRBC is to teach “how technology can contribute to sustainable, ecologically responsible development”

In light of these experiences, JP was disappointed with the reality of sustainable efforts at Whitman: no compost, few sources of renewable energy, and widespread waste of energy and food. JP wondered to himself: “What can I do myself?”

With SITW, JP has found that Whitman’s behaviors are in connection with towns and rural places of America. Environmental degradation is prevalent in the forests, plains, and deserts of the West, but there is also a blueprint for JP’s future in fixing these problems. From Kent Woodruff, a retired ecologist in the Methow Valley of Washington, found the importance of community: Kent was only able to achieve his long list of accomplishments with the help of a diverse group of others. JP realized that, to truly effect change in the world, “You cannot do it on your own.” The Sonoran Institute’s heavy emphasis on community outreach in the Colorado River Delta also impacted him, providing “proof that I can do powerful work myself if I have local support.”

JP doesn’t see himself as a future activist, but as a player in the political system here in the US, or home in Venezuela. Among his dreams is forming a trade & political bloc of Latin American countries, similar to the EU, since there are such strong bonds between nations in that region. Certainly, if Juan Pablo makes that happen, he won’t have forgotten that “communities are incredibly important to environmental and political change.”

By Mitch Cutter

Photo by Clara Hoffman