Ben Carstens is just your regular college student. Well, if by average you mean born in Ireland, lived in Germany, now resides in America, speaks two languages fluently and is learning a third, studied for a semester in Santa Fe, N.M., went to a conference in Croatia to present a documentary he made and basically wants to change the world.
Majoring in journalism and sociology, Carstens has picked up a different mindset than the average American, perhaps due to the fact he has lived in three countries. Born in Cork, Ireland, he lived there until just before his 9th birthday before moving to Germany with his mom.
“I wouldn’t even know what to consider my culture,” said Carstens. “I learned that generally people are welcoming.”
Things weren’t always going in Carstens’ favor, though.
In 2004, right around Christmas, his mom suddenly passed away from a brain hemorrhage. Calling her “the sunshine of the family” and “the one who held the family together,” it is more than clear how much his mom has influenced his life.
“She was always there when I needed her to be,” said Carstens. “I’m not afraid to face what’s going to happen to anyone. I’m just going to live my life to the fullest and not worry about when I’m going to be out on the doorstep.”
Coming to Castleton, he realized how much sustainability was in his life already and that he really had a knack for learning more and educating people about it. Studying for a semester in Santa Fe, he learned all about adobe houses and how sustainable living is very possible and very inexpensive.
Carstens then made a documentary about how the group he was with helped rebuild a community arts center with the traditional adobe and made it sustainable again.
“Growing up in Ireland , it’s a really good example of green living,” said Carstens.
He then got invited by Castleton professor, Paul Derby, to present his documentary at a sustainability conference in Croatia. According to onsustainability.com, the conference is “to broaden conversations about environmental sustainability into an interdisciplinary discussion about the relations of the environment to cultural, economic and social conditions.”
And Carstens’ documentary was trying to do just that.
“His work is terrific because it shows them [people] visually how it’s made,” said Derby. “You could show it [the documentary] to anyone and they’d say ‘oh I get it.'”
It’s not surprising to his peers that Carstens’ work was so well received.
“He knows how to capture attention with his footage,” said recent Castleton graduate and friend, Martina Marchese. “I saw pieces of it [the documentary] before I left Castleton and it really captivated his experiences there.”
Because he is so passionate about his work with sustainable living, he one day would like to live in an earth ship. An earth ship is a house that is built out of natural and recycled materials such as old tires, dirt and old soda bottles. They can be built in any part of the world, in any climate and still provide electricity, water, sewage treatment and food production.
“You’re not dependent on the electrical and water grid,” said Carstens. “You don’t need technology 24/7.”
Carstens is an overall extremely well liked guy. Marchese said that he will “absolutely do amazing things with his future and talents.” His girlfriend, Elena Neszvecsko agrees.
“He has ambition and ideas to make the world an even better place to live,” said Neszvecsko.
Bob Gershon, head of the communication department at Castleton, believes that Carstens “can relate to people other than just college age Vermont students” because he has “a leg upon the global community because he is a global citizen.”
No matter where Carstens ends up living; America, Ireland, Germany, in an earth ship, all he wants to do is make a difference.
“I just want to make the world a better place,” said Carstens.