It is interesting how almost immediately since I have been here, I went into a state of just trying to find something that comforts me and provides me happiness. I have become overly excited when I recognize something that I enjoy, such as a song someone is playing, getting to eat a food I really like, jumping into a conversation about a topic that is important to me. Routine has been my saving grace. It makes me feel like I have some control over a situation I know I really don’t. I am struggling with the contrast of what usually makes me happy and how little access to those things I have here. Do those who have to endure situations like this just find new ways to feel happy or cope? Or do they never feel happiness again, constantly mourning their previous life? Do they even have the privilege to think the way I am now? Have they ever known another reality? Can everyone here feel happy with one another and our resources, or will we always mourn the dry home we can never return to?
Interview 2: Nayara
“When the global north uses up all the resources, the global south is poor because of colonization, people are using their resources. It’s important not only to empathize, but understand your hand in it and how you contribute, especially living in America, in the belly of the beast.”
-What is your definition of happiness?
“Um, I guess freedom from oppression and the capitalist system, and liberation and decolonization, I think that people aren’t happy if others aren’t happy, society can’t be happy if others aren’t happy, and I think that’s the reason there is so much depression inside the United States. It’s because other countries are suffering because of the way are living, America has sold us this lie that we are happy with material accumulation. We have the highest standards of living and the highest depression. I think the system is really sick so it makes it hard to be happy.”
-What makes you happy?
“Organizing to try to create a world free from oppression. When I first learned about climate change it was paralyzing and depressing. What made me happy was being a climate justice activist and making a difference. I think it gives people a certain amount of agency. I do believe that your happiness is related to society’s happiness. That doesn’t mean you can’t be happy if society is sick if you are working to create the world that you want. I think that’s how I stay happy.”
-What physical objects or technologies affect your happiness and why?
“I definitely feel that not having access to the internet has affected me in that I use social media and my phone to talk to my loved ones and stay connected to friends. Being out here while I’m trying to just get by because we don’t have service. It’s a layer of separation from the people I love. The freedom to move around not having access to a car, we do have bikes, and I’m really glad I brought my bike, because it makes me feel like I’m not trapped here and I can move around.”
-Has limited access to water affected your overall state of happiness and if so, how?
“I think that 4 gallons of water a day is actually a lot. The hardest part is going to the bathroom and having enough gray water. But I have enough water to drink, I haven’t taken a shower yet though, but I have 10 gallons of stored up water, it hasn’t been too hard. At least we know we are going to get water twice a day and have enough. I think if I had water insecurity and I didn’t know where I was getting my water every day that would affect my happiness.”
-What is one thing you wish you could do right now that you feel would bring you happiness, but you are currently unable to do it because of your environment or access to water?
“I would say it would be calling my partner.”
-How has your happiness changed since you have been here?
“I’m usually really busy, but I have a lot of free time now, and sometimes the free time is uncomfortable, but I really like how living with artists and seeing how fluid and kind of more relaxed they are, makes me feel like neurotic in comparison. Because I have to know what I’m doing. I’m starting to see that it’s kinda nice not being so damn busy every day. I’m starting to get more comfortable with it. I’m starting to get more comfortable not having service with me all the time, and that’s okay.”
-As of 2023, the extreme water regulations are newer to the United States population, yet in other cultures and communities around the world, the energy required for securing and maintaining water is consistently this difficult, if not more. How has this experience allowed you to empathize and think about other areas and cultures of people that have such limited access to water or has it?
“I certainly feel guilty sometimes because I do have access to water and I have family members that don’t. I think it makes me more aware of my privilege, of being able to live in a place where you turn on the faucet, there is running water, and I also think that it’s part of a larger systemic issue when in 2017 American are using 100 gallons of water a day, even in Arizona and in the Desert. The excessive use of water is not just a waste but it created on the backs of people in the global south that don’t have water. When the global north uses up all the resources, the global south is poor because of colonization, people are using their resources. It’s important not only to empathize, but understand your hand in it and how you contribute, especially living in America, in the belly of the beast. Living here makes me complicit in a lot of BS I didn’t cosign. It’s important not only to emphasize, but be in solidarity. When one side of the earth is stealing from the other and creating disparities.”
-What or who has provided you comfort and happiness while being here?
“The women here have been very helpful and created a very nurturing situation here which I really appreciate.”
-Can you tell me anything else about your current state of happiness?
“I’m excited to make this compost toilet and I’m excited to have time to sit down and work on art because I haven’t done that in a long time.”