HAVE YOU ever noticed groups of people gathering acorns from the forest floors of Yonsei’s Chungsongdae? Their actions may seem harmless; some may believe that the acorns have to be eventually cleared and that these individuals are simply doing the school a favor. In reality, however, acorns exist as the main source of food for animals living in the forest. By taking the acorns away, these people are disrupting the vital ecosystem of the forest. Stirred into action after witnessing the plight of the forest and its animal residents, 28 Yonsei students established the Yonsei Acorn Rangers on Sept. 1, 2018. In order to gain more insight into this newly formed organization, The Yonsei Annals interviewed two members, Sa Sin-won (Sr., Dept. of Chinese Language & Lit.) and Sim Ja-yeon (Sr., Dept. of Cultural Anthropology).
Annals: Could you give an introduction of the Yonsei Acorn Rangers and explain how the organization was founded?
Sa: The Yonsei Acorn Rangers is a student club established to prevent intruders from taking acorns in bulks from the Yonsei forest. We take back the acorns from people and scatter them back to the forest, so that animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, and boars can keep living there. Simply put, we protect the acorns, just as our name suggests.
Annals: Could you further explain about how serious the situation is concerning the outsiders taking away the acorns?
Sa: Once we started to track the amount of acorns that were being taken away by outsiders, we noticed that these intruders were depriving our small forest by an incredibly large number. Last year, we found that a single person gathered thousands throughout the year, and it turns out that such cases are the norm as 20 to 30 people collect similar amounts.
We haven’t yet made estimates of the total number of animals inhabiting the forest, but we can assume that the number of available acorns reflects their total population. If people continue to take the acorns away from the forest, they will destroy the equilibrium of nature, making it impossible for animals to coexist with us on campus.
Annals: What are the main projects of the Yonsei Acorn Rangers?
Sa: One of the main projects we’ve launched since our creation in September has been the installation of acorn banks around campus. We built boxes to store the acorns, called acorn banks, and small animals like squirrels and chipmunks can get to them for a consistent supply of food.
Another project we started is called Cheong-jeong-won*,” a relief project that primarily focuses on the Chungsongdae area. As we went there to scatter acorns, we noticed that there was a lot of trash littered around. Thus, we organized this project to pick up garbage while spending some quality time with each other in picnics.
We also made plans to “export” the concept and design of the acorn bank to other campuses. Recently, we “exported” one to Seoul National University of Science and Technology, which has been facing similar issues of massive acorn loss. This exchange will also contribute to raising social awareness so that the idea of finding practical ways to protect the wildlife on school campuses can spread.
The most critical moment of this upcoming winter will be when it snows, as snow prevents animals from finding acorns on the ground. Thus, we are preparing to scatter the acorns after it snows, making it easier for the animals to find food and survive.
Although the Yonsei Acorn Rangers is still in a developing stage, we try not to limit our activities only to acorns, but we rather try to take care of the environment as a whole. We hope to expand the scope of our organization to tackle greater environmental issues, making changes that may seem small but possess the potential to improve the coexistence of humans and animals.
Annals: How do club members participate in the projects and contribute to the organization?
Sa: We have weekly meetings, in which we discuss new ideas and potential solutions for the environmental issues at hand. Apart from the meetings, our members choose the projects that they would like to participate in.
Our club members contribute with whatever knowledge or experience they have. For example, one of the members, who studies law helped establish our club’s protocol in preventing outsiders from taking acorns. This member based the protocol on the relevant acts and statutes of Korea’s Forest Law. In this way, our club’s success and effectiveness comes from the collaborative efforts of our members.
Annals: What are some difficulties that you have faced as a member of the Yonsei Acorn Rangers?
Sim: Recently, we were invited to a fair organized by The Biodiversity Foundation, where a staff member noted that cases which require direct confrontation are rare in environmental works. Whether it be carrying eco-friendly bags or recycling daily, people mostly carry out these practices on a personal level. However, our work as the Yonsei Acorn Rangers is quite different. We often have to confront strangers and explain to them that their actions are completely wrong. The most challenging part of our job comes from such unpleasant situations in which these strangers ignore us, or, at times, even yell at us.
Annals: When have you felt the proudest as a member of the Yonsei Acorn Rangers?
Sa: As a founder of the organization, I feel proud of every defining moment that we have had since the establishment in September. From the installation of the acorn banks in Chungsongdae to the active support that the school community has given us, I have only been overwhelmingly grateful for the past three months.
Sim: I remember that during break in one of my classes, the professor played a coverage video of our organization, with myself in it. He then called me up to the front and asked me to explain to the class what the Yonsei Acorn Rangers club is and what kinds of activities it does. Then, we all went outside and collected acorns to store in the acorn bank. This experience made me realize how a lot of people are becoming aware of this pressing issue from the actions of an organization that I am a part of. I’m proud that I am able to influence others to take necessary actions to bring a positive change to our community.
Annals: What is the ultimate goal and vision of the Yonsei Acorn Rangers?
Sa: The Yonsei Acorn Rangers envisions a world in which our organization is no longer needed. Thus, our slogan is “May the Yonsei Acorn Rangers be finite!” Currently at Chungsongdae, it is really difficult to spot small animals and wild boars that live there. The animals’ rights have been violated due to the greed over natural resources—the acorns. On a minimal scale, our organization may appear as a group of students trying to feed squirrels and boars on campus. But if we were to consider these animals as part of our society, we are taking primary steps to achieve a world where the weak constituents of our society are fully and uncompromisingly protected. As such, our motto encompasses our devotion to keep working to protect and speak for the weak in our society—until the day comes when that is no longer necessary.
Annals: Are there any last words you wish to deliver to the readers of the Annals?
Sim: If you are reading the last question of this article, it probably means that you are interested enough in our organization and the environmental issues surrounding our school. After getting to know more about our mission and projects, I hope you will talk to your friends, relatives, and classmates to spread the word about us. I believe that social awareness is the first step to achieving greater change!
*Cheong-jeong-won: A Korean acronym of “청송대를 정호하는 대원들,” directly translated as “Agents Protecting the Chungsongdae”