Since 2007, through advocacy and incentive campaigns, education and training classes, design competitions, and other programs, green|spaces has advanced the sustainability of living, working, and building in Chattanooga. green|spaces continues to develop new programming that advances its shared mission of meeting the responsibility to be stewards of the environment and raising the quality of life for residents and visitors. Michael Walton is Executive Director.
How and why did you get into this kind of work?
John Muir wrote "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." I pursued sustainable architecture as a way to directly improve people's quality of life and their relationship to the environment in which they live. My thesis project in architecture school explored the relationships between natural systems and man-made systems and how a particular place can help bring people together to better know one another and themselves.
While practicing architecture in Washington DC for both national environmental nonprofits and local social justice nonprofits I began to see the similar exploitative relationships that our man-made systems have both with nature and certain groups of people as compared to the symbiotic systems we see in nature. In 2014, I jumped at the opportunity to move to Chattanooga to lead green|spaces and focus the efforts of the organization on broader system change, rather than just building by building change.
Who inspires you? Why?
Allen Shropshire inspires me. He graduated from our first Built it Green class, volunteered to give our Empower Workshops at MetMin, came on part time to help with outreach, and was so impactful we promoted him to full time to build more relationships, strengthen existing partnerships, and build out post-graduate engagement for BIG while he builds the skill sets he needs to run his own organization that focuses on helping former gang members thrive.
It is people like Allen that will make all the difference in the world and we need to create more pathways for people like him to become leaders.