How to start a Movement and Laura Obenski

by Bill Gadbow


No one is more annoying than the recently converted. That would be me. Before starting this online venue, I was pretty ambivalent about the native vs. non-native plant issue. If you took the time to watch my back yard video (thank you, if you did), then you would have heard me flippantly insist that I’m keeping my non-native Beautyberry and that some of my holly is native and some isn’t. The attitude that I was exhibiting is probably fairly typical of a suburbanite in 2021 America – which, I guess, is the main problem. But in the last few weeks I have been doing reading I should have done ten years ago – most notably the excellent book “Bringing Nature Home” written in 2007 by Professor Douglas Tallamy of the University of Delaware – and that has led me to understand that we – you and me – can make a big difference by getting behind this movement.

Have you noticed that when you go for a long trip at night, your windshield has a few bug spots on it, but nothing too bad? I remember, as a kid, whenever we went for a long trip, our windshield would get spattered with dead bugs. You might think that not having to clean your windshield after driving an hour in the dark is a good thing. It’s not. It is anecdotal evidence of something very important.

ALL our energy ultimately comes from the sun. Plants convert it to physical matter. Insects and some animals eat the plants. All kinds of creatures eat the insects. Without copious amounts of insects, our natural environments do not exist. Why are our windshields clean at night? For many decades, well meaning homeowners and landscapers and naturalists have been planting non-native plants that our local insects can’t eat. The non-native plants have escaped into the wild and proliferated, crowding out the food sources for the insects. WE –you and me – need to reverse this.


EAC volunteers planting a milkweed garden

The Uwchlan Township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) has stepped out on the front lines and started projects to do two things – put plants in the ground that will make a difference and recruit volunteers by raising both awareness and enthusiasm. Last year the EAC and Master Naturalist Toni Gorkin planted a milkweed garden and a wetland native plant garden outside the township building. The plants are doing well and feeding birds (and insects) for free. Uwchlan recently received three large grant projects (funded by the settlement with the pipeline developers) to update the township water basins with green infrastructure. The mowed golf course-like basins are being reengineered to better reroute the water and planted with native pollinator plants to both help retain water and improve the environment. Two webinars on Professor Tallamy’s work were attended by as many as 84 enthusiastic participants. A non-binding resolution has been instituted to set percentages of plants on public and private lands and recommend seed blends. Most recently, the EAC team hosted a “Ghosts and Milkweed” event on Halloween.


Toni Gorkin, as a butterfly, dispensing seeds and information


The chairman of the EAC is Laura Obenski. Laura is not a recently converted environmentalist. She’s been doing it for years and now she is running for Uwchlan Township Supervisor.
Being a committed environmentalist is a pretty strong recommendation, but Laura is not a one-issue activist. She is a mom, educator, first responder, volunteer firefighter, 911 call taker, and EMT. She is a supporter of our schools and youth sports. She has been active in traffic safety in our community and in oversight of the pipeline construction. She is a member of the Uwchlan planning committee and the leader of the township’s Environmental Advisory Council. And currently, she is a good source for milkweed seeds. If you are ready to plant some milkweed, Laura can set you up with all the seeds that you will need.

For years, Laura has been working in the movement to preserve and improve Uwchlan’s parks and open spaces. What is a movement? There is a famous YouTube video by Derek Sivers that explains it. You can view the video by searching on “How to start a movement.” It is worth a watch. The video shows a guy dancing by himself at a rock concert, joined by a second dancer who is welcomed as an equal, then other dancers join in. Within three minutes the whole screen is filled with enthusiastic dancers. Derek points out that the crucial point of the movement is when the first follower and subsequent followers join in. A successful movement is owned equally by everyone who joins. No one is keeping score, and everyone wins. That’s what we want to do while improving our personal and community spaces to foster Nature. It doesn’t matter if we sat on the sidelines for a long time. It is perfectly fine for us to join in now.


Laura Obenski

When someone steps out, like Laura has, that gives the rest of us a huge opportunity to join a movement and make a difference. We can help by supporting her in her community work in the coming years.

UPDATE: Laura is a new Uwchlan township supervisor!!

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