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.
The anthropologist Margaret Meade famously said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Southern Illinois native Jessica Lynn is a firm believer that changing the world needs to happen from the bottom up.
Lynn founded the nonprofit Libre Unschool in 2016 to do programming in social justice, environmental stewardship and education, and humanities.
Lynn says, “I want to be a part of a something that is building a brighter future for Southern Illinois. Creating a thriving, self-sufficient community is a big part of what we are working toward. And I believe we need to fight for that future because help isn’t coming from the top.”
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As a card-carrying member of Team "Change the World," I’m a big fan of Lynn’s work.
Michael Baltz: What is Libre Unschool, exactly?
Jessica Lynn: I started Libre Unschool as a way to provide arts and environmental experiences to Southern Illinois youth and their families. So, Libre Unschool hosts programs such as Y’all Rock Carbondale (formally Girls Rock Carbondale), but is also very involved in food autonomy programs like the Washington Street Garden (WSG), Birch Street Food Forest (BSFF), and the Neighborhood Planting Project. WSG is a community garden on Washington Street and Libre Unschool offers fiscal sponsorship and administrative services to the garden. The BSFF is a food forest project I began two years ago under Libre Unschool; it's a perennial garden and food forest. Plants will start producing fruit and nuts in the next year or two. That project was born from the Neighborhood Planting Project, a regional collaboration with like-minded community organizers.
MB: Why do you feel that building community is so important?
JL: Community development work is important not just because it feels good, but because we’re in a system that continually fails to provide opportunities and even basic securities for large segments of the population, especially poor people, people of color, trans people, and houseless people. As society becomes more disconnected from the land and critical thinking and creative expression, many folks don’t get a chance to plant a tree or write a song or eat healthy organic food, even here in sleepy Carbondale. Many people don’t know about all the great groups in Southern Illinois working on building community, and Libre Unschool is just one thin thread of that tapestry here and elsewhere.
MB: What’s your motivation for doing your work with Libre?
JL: I want to be a part of a something that is building a different future than what is on offer. The planet as human habitat is clearly being destroyed by the unrealistic demand for constant economic growth. Plant and animal communities are being wiped out, and even humans are at risk of extinction. As there appears to be little or no recognition of the crisis coming from the top, it is up to us to take the fight for our future into our own hands. Immersing ourselves in the natural world and committing to practices that nurture where we live is the first step to reconnecting with the land and coming to understand literally how important a healthy planet is to literally human.
MB: What makes you hopeful about the future?
JL: Lots of things make me feel hopeful: Planting trees, and perennial foods; making soil with my household waste; collecting rainwater in tanks for irrigation; sprouting seeds in March, watching them grow and create fruits, harvesting and eating them in August. Learning something new every day about how to live more in harmony with the earth makes me hopeful. Saying it more generally, I’m hopeful because I know that humans have the knowledge to survive, and thrive, without destroying the planet and because I believe we can restore that knowledge to ourselves and our children, and their children, and so on.
MB: How can people get involved in these and related projects?
JL: People can visit LibreUnschool.org to find out more about most of our projects. Often, there are volunteer opportunities, and sometimes there are even paid opportunities within the scope of any given project. People can also visit CarbondaleSpring.org to learn more about their vision of a future Southern Illinois worth building.