Fall makes me think of meetings, of my father putting on corduroys and sweaters and my mother a skirt, a blazer and hairspray. They often carried notebooks and pens. They left me in the evening to learn something, to have important discussions, to take part in some community somewhere. Knowing they cared made me feel somehow secure in the world.
Like them, I now leave my own house every month for the Jayhawk Audubon meeting. At one meeting, I learned about the increasing conservation needs of Kansas’s greater prairie chicken. But the meetings aren’t always about birds. Another night, we wound up in the parking lot looking through telescopes at Venus, our moon and even the moons of Jupiter. Another night, I learned about dark matter from KU professor of astronomy and astrophysics Bruce Twarog, a man so passionate about his subject that he leapt into the air like a popcorn kernel and made the rest of us leap in response.
In addition to Audubon, I’ve also attended meetings of the Wakarusa Chapter of the Sierra Club. Participation in both of these clubs has enriched my life in so many ways. I’ve met other like-minded people who have since become some of my best friends. I’ve become more informed about local environmental issues and tramped my local watersheds and bioregion. With Sierra Club, I’ve visited the local water treatment plant, sanitation plant and landfill, and in the process, got a much more literal sense of my impact on the local landscape. With Aubudon, I’ve participated in the Christmas Bird Count, the May Birdathon and field trips that have helped me ground myself in the region by marveling in the beauty and habits of its other-than-human inhabitants.
Incorporated in 1905 in honor of naturalist John James Audubon, the National Audubon Society arose in response to a call from Forest and Stream editor George Bird Grinnell to halt the massive slaughter of native birds. Now nearly 500 chapters exist across the United States.
The Sierra Club had its first meeting May 28, 1892, in San Francisco with founder and first president John Muir presiding. Founded in response to the national park idea, Muir and his fellow members established the club when it became evident, as KU historian Donald Worster says in his book “A Passion for Nature: the Life of John Muir,” that land conservation was a “legitimate and necessary part of American democracy.” The club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters across the county.
The greatest thing about both of the local chapters of these clubs is that they wholeheartedly welcome members of the community to attend and participate at any level:
- Jayhawk Audubon meets at 7:30 p.m. the fourth Monday of the month at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H.
- The Wakarusa Chapter of the Sierra Club meets at 7 p.m. the first Friday of each month at Ecumenical Christian Ministries, 1204 Oread Ave..
Here are some other local environmental clubs that also welcome new members:
- Kansas Native Plant Society
- Kansas Herpetological Society
- Kaw Valley Mycological (Mushroom) Society
- Friends of the Kaw
- Lawrence Sustainability Network