An hour and a half south of Chicago is the Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Living in Pembroke Township, Illinois. I met with Dr. Wright, one of the founders, walked the land with her and learned more about her vision for the site and the Center.
The vision as outlined on the Center’s website succinctly captures the essence of our conversation. We must weave a new way of life that is collective; cooperatively sharing and efficiently utilizing the resources we have; honoring the sacredness of life; working for the greater good of the whole.
Moving through the land with that mission in mind, especially after seeing the surrounding acres and acres of corn and soy and big box warehouses, was a true joy. Here is a soulful place with people dedicated to the restoration of the land and all levels of their community – from the molecular level, through soil health, to the big picture where people, plants and animals comprise a functional, resilient system.
The ecosystem context of Black Oaks is the Black Oak Savanna. That ecosystem is imperiled, according to the oaksavanna.org website. With intensive agriculture and housing development pressures, much of this biodiversity-rich ecosystem has been destroyed. Typical characteristics of the Black Oak savanna system are oaks and sun-loving plants that include many different types of grasses and herbaceous plants like compass plant that can tolerate temperature extremes and the excessively well drained soils of the Wisconsin Loess deposited by retreating glaciers. Making the site of the Black Oaks Center even more remarkable is that it is one of the remnant parts of this ecosystem, and to their credit, the people of the center are committed to its restoration. As part of the greater ecosystem restoration, medicinal plants and organic food will help support the people living at the center and the greater community they are part of.
I am enthusiastic and hopeful to bring my expertise in ecology, design and art to support the vision of the Black Oaks Center. Thanks to Dr. Wright for meeting with me and sharing her aspirations for such a marvelous place.