The Living Environment ( part 6) The City

In my 71 years I have lived in every environment that there is . . . at least it seems that way to me. I have been to maybe a dozen foreign countries where I mingled with common peoples and observed how THEY lived. In this part I want to talk about the environments we create around ourselves and how they work for us, as well as against us, and how we can reduce our footprint in our chosen environment.

Life in the large city:

The city can be a very exciting place to live. Renting or leasing an apartment like most do means we’ll have a landlord to deal with the maintenance and stuff, so it’s mostly just work, eat, play for us . . . and there are plenty of places in the city to have a good time, especially in the larger cities. We won’t even need a car because we can take a cab, subway, or walk to any of the many places we may wish to go.

For the consuming public the city offers an easy lifestyle filled with so many choices that we could go mad buying stuff if we aren’t careful. So is it even possible to make a difference in that kind of an environment? What can the average city dweller do to reduce his/her footprint in the city?

Well, the city is a corporate entity, meaning it is people living closely together and sharing whatever the city has for them to share. So, although we can reduce our footprint on our own individually, it seems to me if we live in the city that the greater benefit would be to do it together as a group, then there could be a huge difference for everybody.

Following is a story about one small episode in this way of life, and proof that YOU can make a difference, even if you do happen to live in the big city, by getting involved in your local ecology organization . . . if you have none, start one!


The “Heartbeat” of a Community

Written by Celia Benton

Wednesday, March 12 2014The “Heartbeat” of a Community

It was another sunny day in the Menomonee Valley. Delma placed the stethoscope against a gnarly tree branch in Three Bridges Park. Her eyes grew wide and she shouted “I can hear it! The tree has a pulse!”

Several minutes, and several tree pulses later, Delma approached me and said, “My grandfather in Mexico used to place his ear to the ground and say he could hear the heartbeat of the earth. Is it true that the earth has a heartbeat? Now that I’ve heard the pulses of the trees I think he is right.” It was one of the most profound and beautiful statements I have ever heard, and it came from a seventh grader.

From what I saw, Delma was similar in many ways to other seventh graders — within minutes of her statement she was off joking, laughing and being a little mischievous with her friends — but her comment deeply resonated with me. Even though I have not seen her in months, I still enjoy telling this story.

Delma is one of the hundreds of students learning in the Valley every weekday. Through NEEP (our Neighborhood Environmental Education Program), students are picking up trash, planting native species, testing water quality, cross-country skiing on the Hank Aaron State Trail or simply playing games in the prairie. While each activity connects students to life in the Valley a little differently, it’s all a lot of fun.

 I am fascinated with how many connections are made in the Menomonee Valley every day. Everything — people of all ages using the new Three Bridges Park, wonderful-smelling grey headed coneflower seeds, hawks, field mice, snakes and more — combines together to make the Valley what it is today, a place full of life, love and wonder.

At the Urban Ecology Center we frequently discuss how to support and become part of, our local communities. Everyone has a different story about what we do here at the Center, and I think Delma’s story sums it up well: we help build community by connecting people to life in their local environment. In Delma’s case, this connection also brought her closer to her family and perhaps gave her a little more respect and awe for our planet Earth.

So even if you live in the city by choice or by necessity you can still get involved in the “earth change” movement. You may even find for yourself greater possibilities than us country folks have to make a difference. Check it out.


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