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Change, Neighborhood by Neighborhood at the UEC Intensive

Written by Megan Andrews-Sharer
    Tuesday, 05 February 2019
Change, Neighborhood by Neighborhood at the UEC Intensive

Julie Ulrich, Program Director, Nature in Cities, The Nature Conservancy, Pennsylvania Chapter; and Rebecca Weaver, coalition and community partnership expert working as Cities Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy, Missouri Chapter.

Over half of the world’s population lives in cities, and numbers are predicted to rise in coming years. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social affairs cites, “Sustainable urbanization is key to successful development.” The UN uses the term sustainable in a broad scope--economic, social, and environmental. The Nature Conservancy is a global organization working to address sustainable development from the environmental lens, protect urban nature and enable people to interact with it in a meaningful way is increasingly important. Pascal Mittermaier, Global Managing Director for Cities, says of the Nature Conservancy’s Cities Program, “The Nature Conservancy’s urban conservation teams work with a wide group of global partners to explore the health benefits of nature in cities, while also focusing on nature as a way to tackle inequality and exclusion.”

Neighborhood by neighborhood, the Urban Ecology Center addresses this global issue, using Environmental Education as a catalyst to conserve land, improve health, and give all people access to the natural world. The scale and approach of The Nature Conservancy and the Urban Ecology Center may differ, but the goals of both organizations align perfectly. The Intensive provided an opportunity to bring the work of both together.

The Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin recruited nationally to have six participants attend the Center’s Intensive. Julie Ulrich, Program Director of Nature in Cities of the Pennsylvania Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, attended as part of the cohort. Ms. Ulrich has followed the Urban Ecology Center from afar for years, and the timing of the program was perfect as she had just put her first urban conservation program in action. She says “There’s nothing like being here in person. (The experience) really brings the entire vision and meaningful work to life.” She added that the co-learning with people from around the world creates “allies” in thinking about community and ecology. It is inspiring to know that all of these people are contributing in their own neighborhoods, whether in Atlanta, Mexico, or Israel.

hikers and strollers by the TMJ4 station

Julie Ulrich before going on a canoe adventure along with other participants 

Rebecca Weaver, the Cities Program Manager of the Missouri chapter of The Nature Conservancy also attended. Ms. Weaver is a coalition and community partnership expert now working on behalf of The Nature Conservancy to advance strategies and projects that enhance natural systems in urban landscapes throughout the state. The initial emphasis is on the City of St. Louis. It is not a small project!

Ms. Weaver attended with the goal to learn fully how the Center’s processes and lessons-learned contribute to revitalizing urban green space, and how the Center's approach to renewing disinvested neighborhoods could apply to St. Louis. Her goal was achieved -- she has found that her in-depth understanding of the Center’s model has led her to use a “co-creation” strategy in St. Louis. Ms. Weaver says, “The Intensive allowed me to witness the impact and effectiveness of a place-based, nature-themed community center. Co-creating strategies that are tailored to each community is an essential part of what it means to do great urban conservation work. The Urban Ecology Center has developed a model that has been able to demonstrate the power behind bringing people together to heal the land and learn from one another.” With both organizations using the power of collaboration to tackle the global issue of city growth and sustainable development, the future of the land and its people is that much brighter.

Footnotes:

Pascal Mittermaier quote sourced from this link  

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs city population statistics sourced from this link 

Megan Andrews-Sharer

Megan Andrews-Sharer

Megan began at the Urban Ecology Center around the time Executive Director Ken Leinbach began writing his book, Urban Ecology: A Natural Way to Transform Kids, Parks, Cities, and the World.

Throughout Ken’s writing sabbatical, book publishing, formation of the Institute with speaking and consulting projects, 4-day Intensive, and now focus workshops, Megan has helped Ken create and coordinate the project. Megan has a background in community-based program development and membership management at small non-profits and a degree in History and Environmental Studies from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.

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