Inspiring Advice for Changemakers: Tapping into Your Circles of Influence




This week we continue our series of interviews with NW Earth Institute changemakers: individuals who have tapped into their circles of influence, and are making a profound difference in the community. Today’s interview is Transition US’s Co-Director, Maggie Fleming. We asked Maggie how she stays inspired as a community organizer and environmental activist.

What was your primary motivation to become a community organizer and sustainability leader?

My ongoing inspiration for this work is a deep reverence for the natural world, stemming from experiences ranging from exploring urban pocket parks to backpacking in the wilderness. I’ve also been inspired by working with communities and organizations that are addressing the sustainability movement through various approaches, including community organizing, education, social justice, public health, the legal system, and ecopsychology.

Tell us what inspires you to keep working in the face of complex challenges and setbacks?

I have the great privilege of getting to be in communication with Transition organizers and resilience leaders every day. One inspiration today was learning about the local commercial kitchen space that Transition Catskills is developing to support local food growers. And an inspiration from yesterday was reading about the Imaginings hosted by our friends at the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. While the urgency of our complex challenges are part of what drives me to continue this work, it is these stories and the work of individuals and groups across the country that inspire me.

Can you share a success story from your efforts as a changemaker?

An example of a local Transition effort that I’ve been involved with that has already effected change in my own community is our work to build community support for our recent Village Building Convergence. This event is creating more public gathering spaces and social connections within our community. Some of the factors that I think have contributed to this success include: engaging a broad range of stakeholders (community members, City Council, local businesses, etc.); encouraging intergenerational participation (inviting elders to share their wisdom; offering child care activities; etc); and inviting creativity and fun as part of our placemaking work (for example, one project will include a fairy garden for kids, and another will create a cob oven for shared meals).

What insight and wisdom can you offer to other changemakers who are working to make a difference in their communities?

Some of the things that support me in this work include: learning from the changemakers that have come before you; reaching out to collaborate with others that are working in your field; and taking time to recharge — for me it’s meditation and time in nature.

Maggie is passionate about community organizing, leadership development, and environmental activism. Maggie’s educational background includes a B.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy from Occidental College and a M.A. in Ecopsychology from Naropa University. She is currently Co-Director at Transition US, an NWEI partner organization, and nonprofit that provides inspiration, encouragement, support, networking, and training for Transition Initiatives across the United States. She is also the Executive Director of the School Garden Network of Sonoma County, which supports and promotes sustainable garden and nutrition-based learning programs in Sonoma County schools.

200+ Companies Sign Oregon Business Climate Declaration

CaptureWhat a week it has been for climate action! We here at NWEI are proud to stand with Oregon Environmental Council and Climate Solutions in signing our support for meaningful action on climate change and a commitment to start that action right here in Oregon.

The Oregon Business Climate Declaration now has over 200 Oregon companies who have signed and who are calling for action on climate change. OEC and Climate Solutions shared the following information with us on the momentum happening here in Oregon, and why the timing is so critical.

Q. Why Oregon?

A:Businesses in Oregon understand the opportunity we have to build on the state’s competitive advantages and leadership in clean technologies, like renewable energy and energy efficiency. For our companies, our employees, our customers and partners, the debate on climate change is over. It is time to act.

Q: Are we alone? What about other states?

A. No. Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia – collectively representing the world’s fifth largest economy- are engaged in a regional effort to advance economy-wide policies to unleash regional innovation in energy and production that will address global warming and help assure our long term competitiveness.

Q: Why now?

A: Mitigating risk is an essential part of business decision-making. But while the American economy faces significant risks from climate change, most businesses are not yet taking into account the economic risks of a changed climate.

Too often the question that is asked is about the cost of regulation, rather than the cost of inaction. There are real costs to the state of Oregon for not dealing with climate change. A longer, hotter & drier summer means more wildfires and more money invested to fight them and loss of revenue for businesses that depend on summer recreation, etc. Same with increased floods, decreased snow pack, affecting some of our signature state industries, like skiing and wine.

For our companies, employees, customers and investors, the debate is over. Climate change is happening and the risks are high. Former U.S Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson was in Portland this summer with more evidence that the U.S. faces significant and diverse economic risks from climate change in a report called Risky Business. According to the Risky Business report, by the end of the century, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho could well have more days above 95°F each year than there are currently in Texas. Oregon may experience more wildfires, reduced snow pack, and loss of hydropower.

Q: Can Oregon really solve climate change?

A:It is true that this is a global and national challenge, and ultimately we need national action from Congress. But that should not slow down Oregon from strengthening its economy and building more resilient communities. Investments in renewable energy, in clean technologies, in energy efficiency make business sense and reduce carbon pollution. States can also play an important role in helping to create the momentum we need for national action. Oregon is a leader and a pioneering state and, together with West Coast neighbors, can have a national impact.

For more information and to sign the Oregon Business Climate Declaration, click here.

Changemaker Interview: Dan Brunner Speaks about Seeing Systems

BrunnerDan Outdoors We here at NWEI are excited to have worked with over 400 colleges and universities to offer our discussion course books and EcoChallenge (and counting!). This summer, Dr. Dan Brunner of George Fox Evangelical Seminary used NW Earth Institute’s Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice and Sustainability discussion course book in his Poverty and Restorative Earthkeeping class. In this post, Lacy Cagle, NWEI’s Director of Learning and Engagement, interviews Dr. Brunner about his innovative use of NWEI courses and how he is changing the world for good, one student at a time.

Thanks for speaking with me today, Dan. Can you tell us what you do at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and how have you used NWEI course books in your work?
I am Professor of Christian History and Formation and the Director of Christian Earthkeeping. For that second position, I co-teach four courses in the seminary in the Christian Earthkeeping concentration. Each course uses an NWEI discussion course book. Because NWEI discussion courses are so focused, they allow both first and fourth class students to engage as equals.

This summer, you used Seeing Systems in your Poverty and Restorative Earthkeeping class, tell me a little about your use of Seeing Systems.
Poverty and Restorative Earthkeeping is a hybrid class, mostly online, with one GoToMeeting session at the beginning and three consecutive days in which we all meet in person. Overall, it’s about a ten week class. For the first four weeks, students read the first three sessions of Seeing Systems and from a more academic and theological textbook, Resisting Structural Evil. Students also engage in three interviews during this time: they interview one person who is of a different class than them, one person who is of a different gender than them, and one person who is of a different race than them. They then complete an integrative assignment. During this time, they engage via Facebook and Twitter, using hashtags to post quotes from Seeing Systems and their theology text. The idea was that they would use their own social media accounts to publicly start thought-provoking conversations with their friends around the issues explored in the text. For the in person meetings, we knew that these days couldn’t be lecture-based – we needed to get students out into the community and sharing experiences together. We want students to relate the environment to urbanization – to see that social, cultural and environmental systems are integrated. Our experiences try to help students broaden their perspective. For example, we do a liturgy of the river and take them on a walking tour of the Willamette on the bluffs above a super fund site. The tour tells the story of the river from the perspective of the river as first person. Then during the last six weeks of class, they finish both Seeing Systems and Resisting Structural Evil, write a research paper and put forth their own theology of creation care.

It seems that you structure your class very intentionally around engagement and pedagogy – something that’s very important to NWEI. You’ve structured your class to get at the essence of NWEI’s method – to create community, to connect the issues we currently face to what students can do in their own lives and fields, and to see that things are connected. What did your students think of Seeing Systems?

The students loved Seeing Systems. The Academy tends to become so siloed – my students have theological glasses on, others have economic glasses, or biological glasses, or cosmological glasses. Seeing Systems brought those perspectives together and forced students to see beyond those theological glasses and to see more broadly. Students mentioned how much they liked the book many times, they quoted from it more than any other text they were reading, and they talked about what they had read with energy and passion. We will definitely use this book again because the feedback was so positive. I will also use Seeing Systems in my Doctor of Ministry course this fall. It is more prophetic than some of the other books we’ve been using.

You’ve mentioned to me a couple of times that you find Seeing Systems to be prophetic. What does that term mean to you?
Prophets try to help a system to see things from a different perspective, most often from a minority perspective that is invisible or silenced. The prophet has no idea if he or she is right. People think that a prophet foresees the future, and that a prophet is legitimate if a prophecy comes true. But a prophet calls for change – did a prophet see things ahead of time that the community came to see as true? Prophets are confirmed by the community. The prophetic role can be a lonely one, but it’s very necessary.

Dr. Daniel Brunner is a Professor of Christian History and Formation at George Fox Evangelical Seminary, Dr. Brunner has authored several peer review publications on hybrid learning in addition to his theologically-focused work. Thanks to Dr. Brunner for sharing this thoughts and experiences using the NWEI course books. For more on NWEI’s work with college faculty, students and staff, click here.

Sustainable World Sourcebook

sb4-cover-homepage-rotating-slideThe Sustainable World Coalition has just published the 4th edition of the Sustainable World Sourcebook, winner of the International Book Award in the Environment Category. Why should you take notice? SWC’s Steve Motenko tells us.

As someone who cares about the future of our planet, you might be overwhelmed with the volume of information available on:

  • the most pressing global issues;
  • the most promising solutions; and
  • what you can best do to make a difference, given your time, availability and specific passions around sustainability.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a single, accessible resource covering all the above? There is. The Sustainable World Sourcebook gives you the essential information you need to know to be a more effective advocate for change. The Sourcebook addresses:

  • Environmental issues and their impacts, along with a prescription for rapid, large-scale change
  • Energy resources, peak oil, conservation, and emerging technologies
  • The global financial crisis, economic transition, green jobs, and sustainable business
  • Poverty, health, education, food security, and social justice
  • Local, sustainable communities and engaged citizens and
  • Green lifestyle choices.

Each chapter includes “What You Can Do” suggestions. And each chapter ends with an “Explore & Engage” activities section, intended for a study circle, class, or practice community. The “Explore & Engage” section’s questions for contemplation, themes for discussion, videos to watch, experiential activities and community action ideas provide diverse and inspiring ways to engage.

The Sustainable World Sourcebook is published by an NWEI partner organization, Sustainable World Coalition, which is a project of Earth Island Institute. If you order the Sourcebook through this link, SWC will donate a portion of the purchase price back to NWEI.

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