A Mitchell Year

It is eight months since I first arrived in Ireland, and each evening, I am reminded of my first few days here. The reminder comes by way of sunlight that lingers well into the night.

It was one of the first things I noticed when I arrived last August. Even on an overcast or rainy day, even at the tail end of summer, the sun would make its presence felt late into the night.

The flipside of this latitudinal phenomenon were the fleetingly short days of winter. From December through February, the sun never seemed to fully rise. And by 4:30 in the afternoon, I would leave lectures to find all but the last traces of light extinguished from the sky.

As with any cycle, re-encountering the familiar solicits a moment for reflection. In this case, I am realizing how much my year in Ireland has been marked by two disparate themes: one of business and economics and the other of Ireland’s natural beauty.

The first of these themes absorbed my weekdays, as I went to class and did work for my MBA program. The second theme was evidenced during weekend sailing, biking, and hiking trips.

The first theme was an exploration of what we, as humans, have created and built – institutions that reach across the globe, employing millions, transforming resources, and changing patterns of everyday life. The second is an exploration of what we haven’t yet touched – miles of Irish landscape that evidence years of carving by wind and water and seem untouched by human intervention.

Ireland is an amazing place to explore the intersection of these two realms. One can travel from Dublin’s ‘silicon dock’ – the name of a commercial district of Dublin, home to the European headquarters of many multinational tech companies – to the Wicklow Mountains well inside an hour.

As humanity grows in size and affluence, we face no greater challenge than that of managing how our expanding footprint affects our planet. For me, this year has been an excellent opportunity to both explore the management of that footprint and, occasionally, attempt to escape it all together.

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