Monday, December 14, 2009

Guest Posting from an Environmentalist:

One year ago, if anyone would have told me that I would become an environmentalist, I probably would have thought they were joking. Sure, I knew that pollution was running rampant, our emissions levels were not likely going to be reigned in before irreversible climate change set in, and a lot of the refuse in landfills won't break down for thousands, if not millions of years, but I did not think that I would be able to do anything about it. In fact, I felt that there were more pressing issues, such as joblessness, poverty and violence, especially considering the neighborhood and environment that spawned me. With only a passing interest in these issues, and my focus on trying to obtain a position in which I felt that I could directly benefit my community, I could never have seen myself as becoming an active crusader in the fight to preserve this sole planet that we humans need for sustenance. I felt like this even leading up to my appointment as the lead person at my placement through Public Allies at Uptown United, slated as the person in charge of creating a recycling program for neighborhood schools.

I did not think that this position would allow me to gain the skills and experience that I felt I needed to be an asset to my community in a meaningful way. However, as I began to research and learn more about what is considered the “environment” and environmental issues through independent research and training through the Chicago Conservation Corps, a volunteer based training program whose aim is to educate and arm citizens with the knowledge and tools to make Chicago a cleaner and greener place, I began to realize that making positive and meaningful changes to ones environment leads not only to a cleaner street, block, etc., but it also builds communities, can lead to jobs and income streams, and generally elevates the moods of people when they have a clean and safe place that they can call home.

So, I can say with confidence that becoming more concerned and active about environmental sustainability and responsibility can improve all of our lives in unimaginable ways; ways that many do not consider until they actually participate in sustainability practices (such as recycling) with their families, coworkers and communities and witness first hand the power that being an environmental steward puts into their hands and the potential that it brings.

-Michael Harrington, Environmentalist/Project Coordinator - Uptown United

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