Building the World We Want

Written by Glenna Holstein
    Thursday, 12 January 2017
Building the World We Want

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.

Glenna Holstein

Glenna Holstein

Glenna grew up a mile up the river from the Riverside Park, so the Urban Ecology Center has always been important to her. Her studies and work have taken her all over the hemisphere, but her home has always been right here in Milwaukee. As Menomonee Valley Branch Manager, she is delighted to be part of the team that is working to connect a new community to the nature in their neighborhood. Her favorite things to do include hiking, exploring, cooking, singing, building forts, and trying to convince children that cockleburs are really baby porcupines!


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