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.