Real Green People is a monthly feature that puts a spotlight on folks who are being the green change they want to see in the world.
Anne Krippenstapel has been a lot of interesting things in her life: line cook/sous chef, caretaker for individuals with disabilities, tattoo artist. But it was on an "alternative spring break" when she was in junior college that she began to visualize a future working in conservation.
Krippenstapel says, “It (spring break) was cleaning up trash on the Ohio River in Louisville with a group called Living Lands and Waters. We would bag up litter and debris along the river and learn about the ecology of the land. It was incredibly fun. I met young forestry majors who were so excited to be going into this profession. At the time, I was indecisive. I wanted to be as excited about my future as those other volunteers were. In 2016 I finally went back to school, at (Southern Illinois University), for forestry. I graduated spring 2019."
Now, as executive director of Keep Carbondale Beautiful, Krippenstapel is in familiar territory. She says, “It’s funny how life works out. I am right back to focusing on picking up trash like on spring break. I guess I didn’t get that far!
Mike Baltz: What’s the best part of your job?
Anne Krippenstapel: Meeting the people who want to get out and make a difference is great. It’s intergenerational, too! I meet young people in high school and college who have so much ahead of them. I get to listen to their hopes for the future while picking up litter together. And I meet older folks that recall how they got involved with conservation issues decades ago, or the changes to the land they’ve seen, also while picking up litter together. That’s really cool.
MB: What advice would you give someone who wants to get involved with Keep Carbondale Beautiful?
AK: Come do a litter pickup with us! We also have a biannual tree sale. There are Spring Clean Up and Recycling Days, an Adopt-a-Spot program, and an America Recycles Day (Nov. 15). We are here to listen to concerns community members have and will help guide solutions to local environmental problems. Give me a call. I am open to new and interesting ideas.
MB: What concerns you the most about the future of the planet?
AK: How much time do you have? Like most people who care, I basically can’t ever get a good night’s rest. But keeping it close to home, I think a lot about invasive species and loss of native biodiversity. A previous job I had, as a forestry technician at Ozark Koala Ecosystem Services, involved combating large swaths of forested land from non-native noxious grasses, shrubs, vines and trees. These invasive plants choke out what’s been here historically. I worry about what our local forests might look like 100 years from now if we don’t do anything, or if our efforts are only intermittent.
MB: What gives you hope about the future of the planet?
AK: In Western culture, people tend to think of themselves as separate from nature and we certainly act like it. Our trash, for example, won’t be going away anytime soon. Heck, a plastic bottle can last for hundreds of years and then it just breaks down into microplastics. But I think there is growing interest in examining indigenous peoples' environmental perspectives. They had a long-term view of the world around them. We are waking up to that. There is this seventh-generation principle, based on a Native American philosophy, that urges the current generation to think seven generations ahead and decide whether the decisions they make today would benefit children seven generations in the future. If we can begin adopting that principle, then I think we’ll be alright.