The amount of seats in the Union Fireside Lounge was not nearly enough for TEDx UW-Milwaukee Monday evening. “Our Big Blue Marble” invited students and the Milwaukee community as they piled in to listen to two speakers for the celebration of Earth week.
Thanks to Ken Leinbach, one of the founders of The Urban Ecology Center, and Marissa Jablonski, researcher and mentor for UWM engineers, UWM can now understand where everyday materials come from and tips on how to conserve the planet.
In Leinbach’s talk, he focused on how the disconnection between the public and the world is the main problem in conservation. The assumption of what the world’s problems are and the truth of what is happening to solve those problems are not the same. This leaves a strong and evident disconnection that Leinbach tries to repair.
“We as humans are not making the connections,” said Leinback.
That is a huge mistake. After making this realization, Leinback decided he was going to be the change he wanted to see so desperately in the world. He began to ride his bike to work and reduced the level of trash he produced, hoping others would notice and follow.
Leinback noticed the minimum green space provided in the Milwaukee area. His research proved that when people spend time outside they are healthier, the environment experiences less crime and students have higher grades in school. Leinback and a few others created an Urban Ecology Center in a high-crime park here in Milwaukee.
The Urban Ecology Center was once a small trailer where students within a two-mile radius could learn and play outside. The results were monumental. Schools outside of the two-mile radius wanted to join. Leinback and his team created more Urban Ecology Centers that eventually grew to be a national success.
The celebration of Earth week continued after the conclusion of Leinback’s speech. Dr. Marissa Jablonski was next and focused on how to see the world as a smaller place.
After graduating with an Environmental Science degree, Dr. Jablonski noticed she wasn’t actively taking part in conservation. She then went back to school for Engineering and now utilizes her skills in development engineering to help laborers in Guatemala and India.
The water mixed with the harsh pigments and chemicals used to create the stunning vibrant colors in sarees used to be dumped outside after each use. Rain would cause this toxic water to drain into rivers and streams. Dr. Jablonski created a box system where the water can be reused when coloring sarees, creating less harm to the environment.
Dr. Jablonski says clothes are the only thing that touches an individual for 16 hours a day. She has seen the hands that create sarees and now stops to think about what goes into the making of items she uses every day.
Kristine Kelnhofer is a junior environmental science major at UWM. When asked what her one takeaway is she said, “I think I’ll be more conscious of the backstory of the things I use.”
Kelnhofer will wonder the origin of the item, the work that came about to produce the item and the purpose of the item in her life. A point made in Dr. Jablonski’s speech.
Our Big Blue Marble drew meaningful and powerful ideas in the Milwaukee community. TED would be proud.