In the Garden | Positive impact

Chicago
By Chicago 5 Min Read

Starting Sunday is Climate Action Week (Oct. 1-8), offering a variety of events across Champaign County that you can participate in to learn about and support local climate action. The week is packed with everything from volunteer opportunities and workshops to educational seminars and celebrations like the Green Ball on Friday night.

This event was planned by the Champaign County Climate Coalition and Urbana Park District, featuring a variety of other partner organizations including Illinois Extension’s East Central Illinois Master Naturalists (ECIMN). Our ECMIN’s are planning a great lineup of events which can be viewed along with all the other fantastic opportunities at urbanaparks.org/about-us/green-initiatives.

As we’ve reflected on climate actions within the ECIMN program, it has been interesting to consider the scope of what we and others involved in Climate Action Week are doing locally to address climate change.

ECIMN is focused on providing science-based educational opportunities that connect people with nature and help them become engaged environmental stewards. We ask our members to complete a 40-hour training course that covers all aspects of nature in central Illinois and prepares them to become Master Naturalist volunteers. While our volunteer work does have an educational focus, much of what we do in the field is focused on protecting and promoting native species.

In the face of climate change, native species will see growing pressure not only from increasing rainfall and extreme heat events, but also from nonnative biota. Invasive species, which are nonnatives that move in and outcompete our natives, are predicted to increase with climate change, which will put additional stress across ecosystems.

Our volunteers work directly with local natural areas managers to fight the onslaught of invasive species and to perpetuate natives. As part of Climate Action Week, some of our regular weekly workdays with our program’s sponsors, the Urbana Park District and Champaign Park District, will be open to the public. Please check out the Climate Action Week schedule to volunteer alongside our Master Naturalists and help perpetuate native species.

The Master Naturalist Program also focuses on education and outreach. For the entire week, ECIMN’s will be out in public proudly wearing their Master Naturalist shirts as part of our “Ask a Master Naturalist” campaign.

If you see us out and about, please take a moment to ask us about how our program addresses climate change or to learn more about native species, ways you can help with stewardship, or any other aspect of Master Naturalist life.

You can recognize us by looking for our orange shirts that feature the monarch butterfly in the shape of Illinois. Please ask a question, or just say hello because we also pride ourselves in the social aspect of the ECIMN program. It’s always terrific to connect with like-minded people who share our love of nature.

While teaching others about nature is important, right along with finding ways to create more resilient communities of native species, there is also a bigger picture to consider. Based on past examples and future predictions, we know that underserved communities will be hit harder and sooner as the effects of climate change intensify. We can already see examples of this trend playing out in other places here in the U.S. and around the globe. It’s important to keep human aspects of climate change in mind as we make choices about the things we buy, activities we participate in and places we go. I think much of the sentiment here is summarized in the phrase “think globally, act locally.”

There is an incredible lineup of events planned for Climate Action Week, which offer great opportunities to learn more about what you can do to have a positive impact. In addition, the schedule has a variety of fun social events throughout the week that will culminate in a Climate Action Celebration on Oct. 7 at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana featuring live music, a variety of exhibitors, free bike checkups and a “learn to ride” bike clinic as well as a ton of other activities.

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