I couldn't picture a better way for me to begin my journey with the Office of Energy & Climate Change (OECC) than how I spent my morning on May 26th at Crestwood Elementary School. In partnership with The Urban Tree Alliance, I was able to spend time as a volunteer for a tree planting project at the school, and I met some of the inspiring individuals I will be working closely with throughout the rest of my internship. Jeremy Kane, director of The Urban Tree Alliance, hosted a series of tree plantings at nine local elementary schools to increase tree canopy cover while engaging young Dane County citizens. The Urban Tree Alliance is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and developing the urban forest canopy of the area in an environmentally responsible and creative way. They have been voicing the value of trees and making tangible impact through various projects since 2011. Over the years, they have made meaningful connections with a wide range of partners including four school districts, Dane County Parks and Operation Fresh Start, to name a few.
The passion behind the network shines through and is matched by community volunteers and partner members at events such as the one I attended. Laughter broke out almost as frequently as kids found worms as they dug in the dirt, showing me that the people involved were there to have genuine fun while doing good. That is something that invigorates me about the opportunity to be a part of the OECC. I am surrounded by a community of changemaking, dedicated, and fun-to-be-around people.
Approximately 135 trees were planted around school campuses. As leader of the Tree Canopy Collaborative, this is exciting news for the OECC. Tree Canopy cover is crucial to climate resilience as well as both climate and public health, and green spaces are beneficial to the mental health of all community members. This is especially important to recognize given that Dane County has experienced a trend of declining tree canopy cover. These declines have primarily been due to loss due to disease but also because of lack of funding for maintenance as well as policies that do not adequately protect existing tree cover. So we take pride in celebrating wins like this one by the Urban Tree Alliance who contribute to combat this challenge while inspiring Dane County youth to cherish trees and all they do for us.
Walking away from the event, I felt a sense of pride and reassurance. I am proud to be part of a community dedicated to climate action from a wide range of parties, and I trust that our actions are making a positive imprint on children to grow into passionate climate champions. Getting young kids’ hands dirty in our climate is crucial for a future where taking care of our planet is top priority. Let’s continue to involve children in our climate action work, as they one day will be the ones on the front line.
Kate is a junior at UW-Madison who is passionate about exploring the intersection of climate action and various stakeholders such as local businesses. She is pursuing degrees in Marketing and Management and is working towards a certificate in Sustainability. Kate is looking forward to learning more about developing strong campaign strategies such as the Climate Action Plan.
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