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Friday, February 13, 2015

1,624 People Do Wild Things

 What’s next for all that energy?

The previous record was about thirteen hundred back in the 1990s. And this time we stopped the publicity because of fear of overcrowding. (For a while we were in danger of registering more people than we had seats in our classrooms and theatres. At the last minute we managed to get four additional large lecture halls – and squeaked by.)

“WILD THINGS: a chicago wilderness conference for people and nature”
is the biggest grass roots ecosystem conference in the world
(so far as we know, at least).
Here’s a summary:
1624 people paid and participated.
169 experts and activists presented talks or chaired discussions.
37 artists, community groups, and businesses mounted exhibits.

Good. But our planet needs this energy to magnify – to proliferate – to go viral-in-a-good-way. Here are some proposals that people are considering. (Are you one of those people? Have ideas? Want to participate?)

·      A much bigger conference in 2017 – with speakers and sessions designed to bring in more new people, broader demographics, gardeners, recreational birders, citizen scientists of all types, teachers and students, activists and advocates, professionals with related jobs, other people seeking related jobs, the curious.
·      An more urban (less forest preserve-oriented) variant of wild things for 2016 that focuses on “Wild in the City” – wildlife, plants, and people in Chicago parks, on the lakefront, in alleys and backyards, migration (bird and human), stuff you can do for conservation while living in an apartment, activist groups, conservation-minded garden clubs, and what else?
·      “Backyard National Park” – there’s more mowed grass in the region than forest preserve. What if people decided to change half our crew-cut deserts to habitat?
·      And many more …

Actually, there’s a long list of more than 20 possibilities people have suggested so far. But the purpose of this blog is to raise the question of “rising to the occasion.”

There’s great power and potential when something generous, hopeful, and visionary makes people worried that too many people will come. Is there not some opportunity here that we should tackle?

We, the conservation community, are pregnant, though we seem not quite to notice. There are currents in the culture that we need to cultivate, nurture, empower.

Power to the Earth Community, all people, and all creation!

So What Is To Be Done? And Who Will Be On The Team Of Catalysts?


  1. It's an exciting prospect, Steve, judging by the enthusiasm we saw at the conference. Maybe it's more than 20 exciting prospects. Thanks for being one of the catalysts that got us this far!

  2. Sixteen hundred plus people is a good start, but it is not nearly enough. In a region with 8 million people we should be able to have enough interest to fill our largest stadium. From a logistics stand point the best way to achieve this level of involvement would be to utilize the power of the internet. Many more people would be able to benefit if they could attend from home or access videos of the sessions at a later date. I think the goal should be to get participation from more than 40,000 people. This is the amount of people that are needed to actually solve some of the problems in our region.

  3. Perhaps the location of the conference can change to encompass a larger pool of prospective attendees . I understand the thinking is the current site is more accessible for those taking public transportation but I imagine more than half of the attendees came via a car and or from the suburbs. Maybe future conferences can alternate from city to suburb and the suburban location can be more centralized, say perhaps College of Du Page in Glen Ellyn. I personally know several attendees who came from the suburbs as well as several who chose not to make the trip because they didn't wish to travel to the city. Just my 2 cents