Andrew Van Gorp 15 July, 2017.

(523 words)

I first met Karen Vanek at the Resiliency Institute a few years ago at a workshop on vegan eating. We struck up a conversation quickly- and I still remember talking about the DuPage deer cull and how excited we both were dreaming up an idea that the Forest Preserve could sell culled deer meat in DuPage as jerky or sausage with all profits going directly back toward DuPage conservation efforts. (Perhaps sold at Kline Creek Farm?) Looking back, it’s pretty hysterical that we held an in-depth conversation about sustainable meat-eating at a workshop meant to encourage veganism. “The rest is history” as they say.

Through the years Karen has inspired me with her unique insight into quirky and esoteric knowledges. We have had the funkiest conversations, and I always have enjoyed that Karen is never afraid to turn a commonly-accepted worldview on its head- questioning everything we think we know. When we needed more Sustain DuPage Board Members, Karen stepped up to the plate.

In her time as Sustain DuPage Board Member, Karen has helped put on the successful First Annual DuPage County Environmental Commission & Committee Symposium, tabled many events, participated in workshops, taken down the minutes at meetings, and started conversations about a permaculture pilot project at our Victory Garden.

That’s why it’s hard for me to reconcile the fact that Karen is moving away. John Muir famously wrote, “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” As Karen leaves DuPage to start an exciting new chapter in her kick*ss life, I feel saudade. Of course I’m happy for her new adventure- and I know she will excel at whatever she does wherever she goes in life- but truly, I’m sad for our community’s loss.

I’m constantly railing about the importance of community- how without a community support system people are more likely to act out aggressively, suffer from depression and anxiety and drug abuse (and the list goes on!) but today I find myself weirdly resentful of just how tight-knit the Sustain DuPage community has become. Because, loss hurts. Loss hurts a lot! When I think of Karen living a few states away, it makes me want to cry. And, to be honest, as I’m typing this, I’m crying a little. 

Karen has a sharp mind, a caring heart, a passion for sustainability justice. I find my heart has become fully hitched to Karen’s friendship and support. I will always treasure the beautiful memories I’ve shared with Karen, and her shoes will be hard to fill.

But fill them we must. The movement Karen has helped to build here will continue on. The eco-movement, the pro-earth movement, the environmental movement, the sustainability justice movement- whatever you want to call it- it’s bigger than any one of us. It is an ancient struggle and it will surely continue to be waged long after we have all walked on from this life. As Karen moves East, we will be looking for a new Board Member.

If you are interested in filling this crucially important role in our community, please read this article to see if you are ready to apply!

Karen, you can move away, but we will always know you to be a DuPager Abroad. 😉

 Sustain DuPage can’t operate without your support. Find out here all the ways you can involve yourself!

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