In mid-January, during those grand days of winter when we actually had snow on the ground, I learned the value of taking chances through the determination of an 8th grade girl.
It was a chilly day, but I had discovered the previous week that students cannot wait to be outside, even on the coldest of days.
One student caught my attention as we walked out to the bus. She told me that it was her first trip to the Urban Ecology Center, her first winter in Wisconsin, and how excited she was for her first opportunity to explore snow. Little did she know, her class was about to go cross-country skiing.
In 2016, over 9,000 people attended events hosted by renters at our three branches. From weddings to meetings, we offer 14 eco-friendly spaces and many amenities that are perfect for small to fairly large groups.
More importantly, by holding an event at the Urban Ecology Center, you are helping a child to get out into nature. You are helping an adult canoe for the first time and a teen teach kids how to grow a garden.
As we usher in 2017, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of change. It seems like it’s something all of us want, in some way or another. We may have different ideas about what kind of change, but I get the sense that most folks would agree with the statement that “The way the world is right now is not ok. We need a change.”
This desire for change has created a lot of conversations about what within the status quo we need to fight against. For me, it’s a long list: climate change, injustice, disparity, oppression, just to name a few. I am exhausted by just talking about what it takes to fight all these huge societal ills. And while these conversations are critically important, I’ve realized that we tend to spend much less time talking about what it is we are working for.
What would it look like to have the world we want to live in?
Take some time to think about that question.
I was amazed by how unfamiliar that way of thinking felt. It’s a hard one to answer, but I truly believe that we need to spend much more time discussing what we want our world to look like. That’s one of the main reasons I appreciate the Urban Ecology Center. Our work, of course, does “fight against” some of the things I listed earlier. But at its core, the UEC is not about “filling a gap” or “addressing a problem”— it’s about building the world we want to live in, right here in our own neighborhoods.
I have been reading “The Next American Revolution” by Grace Lee Boggs recently, and she speaks with incredible eloquence on this idea. She posits that our next revolution (which she says has already begun) will not happen through rebellion and protest but through a cultural revolution in which we, together, create a “world based on partnership among ourselves and with our environment.” Boggs says, “We need to go beyond opposition, beyond rebellion, beyond resistance, beyond civic insurrection…we want and need to create the alternative world that is now both possible and necessary. We want and need to exercise power, not take it.” That is to say, our new world will not come from our “fighting against” alone—it will come from what we work for.
So, what does that world look like? Honestly, I think it looks a lot like what I see at the Urban Ecology Center every day. It looks like people nurturing the land, and being nourished by the land. It looks like adults sharing knowledge and skills with children who share their joy and wisdom with adults. It looks like kindness, rooted in the belief that the people around us matter, and that by caring for one another and for our earth, we care for ourselves.
I say this in part because I think it is important to recognize what a magnificent community we have built together, and to thank you for making it so. Perhaps even more importantly, though, I say this to remind everyone during this time of change that we still have all the things and all the people we need to build the world we want. That’s not to say that it will be easy, but it is possible—we can see it happening here at the Center. As Grace Lee Boggs says, “we are the leaders we have been looking for.” It’s up to us, and we have everything we need. We just need to get to work.
Keeping New Year’s resolutions can be hard. Especially if one of your resolutions is to be active outdoors the middle of a season that usually keeps us indoors. I’ve learned that finding a group of people with similar interests can help get me going. So, if you’re aiming to start your year with more exercise, less stress and more meaningful time with family, we can connect you with others to help you along. Soon the resolution will become a part of your usual routine.
Environmental education is at the core of our mission. The main way we accomplish this during the school year is our Neighborhood Environmental Education Project (NEEP). Through NEEP our partner schools send students to our branches for hands on science and environmental lessons.
We’re educating the next generation of environmental leaders. Plus, they have so much fun they don’t realize how much they’re learning!
How can you express all that the Urban Ecology Center is to so many people and animals alike? These photos are just a small sample of what you can find at our branches. But there's a thread that goes through all of what we do - life! There's so much life!
Look for the phrase “So Much Life” in our communications and use it with your friends. When they ask why you’re a part of the Urban Ecology Center, just say “Because there’s So Much Life!”
A few weeks ago, I was pulling together some attendance numbers for a report. I sent them over to Jen Hense, our Director of Development, and she sent me back an email that said, "Safe to assume all of these numbers were 'zero' four years ago, huh? :-)" She's right – 4 years ago there literally were zero kids playing in Three Bridges Park because there WAS NO Three Bridges Park!
As a child, my bed was flush up against the window in my bedroom. That window provided me with my first encounters with nature.
In winter, I was so mesmerized by the snow-capped trees and gently covered ground, I would stare out the window for hours. It became a sort of game for me to decipher when the deer would pop out from beyond the trees.
In summer, the breeze would come through the open window and at night the crickets would put me to sleep.
In the springtime, I’d eagerly await the flowers and the smells that would come from the forest.
Can a few words ever capture all that the Urban Ecology Center is? Take this real-life experience on the Milwaukee River, for example:
Full moon. Summer night. A beaver’s tail slapped. The river glistened in the light. Baby ducklings twittered, their silhouettes lined up behind their mother. Bats skimmed the water and two bull frogs competed with a gaa-rumph mating call.
How do you sum up all that? Or how about this memory:
Every choice we make about the form and function of our buildings is made with the environment in mind. From energy sources to recycled materials, Urban Ecology Center facilities provide real life examples of green building practices and management.
Visit us and see all the smart ways you can make your home and business greener.