James Got A New Gig

James Got A New Gig

As a journalist I believe my primary function is community engagement. It has been my intention from the beginning of my career to encourage and inspire those within my sphere of influence to become thoroughly engaged in both outdoor recreation and environmental conservation. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that I have accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Nelson Institute For Environmental Studies as Community Partners Liaison.

This title and a small salary are meant to formalize my place on the UW Madison Campus. Though I have worked in collaboration with the Nelson Institute over the past three years, I am now officially sanctioned by the University as a part-time employee. I will continue to teach my summer course Outdoors For All, but this new role gives me the opportunity to create relationships across the local community throughout the year. In this position I will also be able forge partnerships in the state of Wisconsin and many regions around country in the hopes of leading a national conversation on the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in the conservation movement.

Initially, as Community Partners Liaison I am helping to conduct and coordinate several events in Madison through the fall and into the new year. I am happy to announce that I will be co-instructing a free two-day storytelling workshop called Nature Narratives. Held from 6 to 8:30 PM on September 12th and the 19th at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, this learning opportunity is designed to help local residents become effective advocates for the environmental causes that matter to them most. Teaching with author Jennifer Rubin, host of the Inside Stories Podcast and the Moth Madison, my goal is give community members the tools they need to create compelling narratives that reflect their passion for the preservation of our public land.

In late September I’ll be attending the All Out overnight camping trip at Devil’s Lake State Park hosted by the Wisconsin Hoofer’s Outing Club. For about a year now I have been the faculty advisor to a group of students who are working to make their outdoor organization more welcoming to the entire UW Madison campus community. This event will provide a least a few incoming students with their first experience sleeping in a tent. By coordinating with several other student organizations it is my hope that we can create an inviting environment where everyone can be made to feel that they belong in the outdoors.

On October 10th I will be the host of the annual Jordahl Public Lands Lecture. This year in conjunction with the Nature Narratives workshop we are celebrating our local community with an evening of storytelling. Five environmental advocates including an 8th grader, a noted conservation scholar and a Native American tribal leader will share their love of the outdoors through personal tales of stewardship.

Over the next several months I will be working with the Nelson Institute to prepare for the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day. Established in 1970 by our namesake former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, this internationally recognized observance on April 22nd aims to encourage and inspire the general public to actively protect the natural environment. Now that we are confronted by the humbling realities of climate change there has never been a more critical moment in our history to bring our community together and work toward the creation of an ecologically balanced system of governance that not only preserves the integrity of our natural resources but the security and dignity of every human being on the planet. As this 50-year tradition of environmental conservation continues it is my intention to explicitly include the interests all people regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or socio-economic status

Though in my professional capacity at the Nelson Institute I will be engaged in this work part-time I am pleased to have another outlet through which I might continue the work to which I have dedicated my entire life. Following in legacy of environmental advocates from Wisconsin like Nelson, John Muir and Aldo Leopold I look forward to creating some amazing partnerships! And in the process, I hope to support the development of an advocate community that demands a natural world that is open and accessible to all.

“Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The objective is an environment of decency, quality and mutual respect for all other human beings and all other living creatures.” ~ Gaylord Nelson (June 4, 1916 – July 3, 2005)