Luke Percival '11

Forging Ahead
“It would take twenty minutes to get down to the bottom while riding an elevator. That’s the way I started my day almost every morning for the entire summer,” says Senior Luke Percival.

Luke, as an environmental studies major, never thought he would find himself 1200 feet underground, working in a vast and cavernous mine—much less in a remote province in Australia. He had come to GMC a few years earlier with hopes of studying geology and needed to find an outlet for his fieldwork. He would end up going far away from his hometown in Andover, Mass., and about as far outside of the classroom as one could go.

One of Luke’s relatives pitched him the idea of working in a gold mine in the Victoria Province of Australia for a summer-long job, but Luke also saw it as an opportunity to hone his craft. “My family’s originally from the Australia/New Zealand area,” says Luke. “It was great to find out that working there would count toward my policy internship.”

Luke was well aware that mining in the lush surroundings of Australia’s forests might come into conflict with his environmental sensibilities, but he thought it might give him a fuller perspective in the end. “Very few ‘green’ people have worked in the industries they’re trying to reform,” he says.

Once he arrived on-site, he had a lot to learn. The veteran miners imparted Luke with the do-it-yourself, improvisational style of problem solving that is essential to plowing through a persistently dangerous workday. He learned to use drills (some up to twelve feet long), a laundry list of tools, other heavy machinery, and a good deal of terminology. In addition to that, he took stream flow measurements to ensure that nearby water supplies weren’t contaminated. “I was to alert the EPA if we found anything, but fortunately I never had to do that,” he noted.

Working six or seven days a week, Luke had immersed himself in a completely different way of life—and at a time where he felt the need to refocus. “It was almost a cleansing experience—a good way to get my life on track. It really disciplined me,” he explains.

One of his favorite parts of working overseas was being able to hike around and explore the surrounding landscape. Although he had limited free time, his rare sojourns into nature served as memorable moments of relief. “It’s a wilderness paradise there,” says Luke. “There were all sorts of wildlife around—more deer than I’ve ever seen. It was awesome.”

Luke also realized that the local miners weren’t unaware or unconcerned with the natural environment. “A lot of the workers there have lived in this isolated area for their entire lives. They aren’t blindly destroying the natural environment; they’re hunters and nature-lovers. They just realize that environmental damage is inevitable in their line of work—and that’s a realistic attitude about it,” he says.

By Chad Skiles ‘12

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