Learning

I have learned that
everything has its own language and that
if I listen carefully to the birds and the creatures,
and even the grasses,
I will hear the sound of God
in the music of the silence.
There are multiple realities surrounding me
and I know that I must keep the eyes of my heart open
to allow all of existence to be.

And I’m glad I was not told
any of these things
else I would not have grown as tall
nor stretched as far.
I am glad these things were kept hidden from me
until I could open the gate to taste and touch,
to smell and feel, and
to discover my self along the way.

(from Learning Life by Catherine Garland, An Elk Mountain Poet)

If RMBL’s education program were a pill you could buy and swallow all the good things students get from working with our scientists and hiking local trails, the RMBL “pill factory” would be worth billions. In the pharmaceutical industry it costs around $1 billion to bring a drug to market. When you get something that works, like the RMBL education program, you can command premium pricing!

Leqembi, recently approved to slow Alzheimer’s, is an interesting example of drug economics. This drug binds to, and clears a plaque associated with Alzheimer’s. While the impact of plaque formation on cognition remains a mystery, when taken by early-stage patients the pill reduces cognitive loss by 30%. Exactly what that means is a bit squishy since the metrics combine disparate categories in arbitrary ways. It is a bit like asking Spinal Tap to turn down their music by 30% given their non-traditional sound system goes to “11”. With an annual cost of $26,500, and the possibility of severe brain bleeding, understanding the cost-benefit of the pill is hard.

On the other hand, the cost-benefit of RMBL is simple. While there has been no double-blind trial, there is no shortage of individuals attesting to the impacts of a summer in Gothic (see adjoining article). My wife, RMBL’s Science Director Dr. Jennifer Reithel, and I feel so strongly about RMBL, that we have dedicated our professional careers to advancing the program. And beyond hundreds of other personal stories, we do have assessment data documenting large self-reported improvements in confidence and ability to do field research. We have even published research that uses an observational control group and finds a major increase in the likelihood of our alumni going on to PhD programs, with an effect size lasting across decades that would make pharmaceutical companies drool.

The economics of the RMBL “pill” go beyond large, long-lasting and demonstrable impacts on individuals. They extend to society. The scientists that RMBL helps grow and develop will go on to become a part of the next generation of environmental leaders. Based upon longitudinal tracking we know our alumni will contribute to the design and implementation of policies that will safeguard ecosystem services, such as clean water and food security, and help ensure the resiliency we will need to adapt to rapid environmental change.

The impact of RMBL can get lost in a steady stream of advertising and marketing. But a donation to support a student scholarship at RMBL isn’t a bitter pill to swallow. Rather, it will change a person’s life and make the world a better place!