When I look outside right now, I see mud, brown grass, bare branches, and an overcast sky. (Winter is clearly not my favorite season.) When peers outside, she sees an awe-inspiring world of possibility.
Marissa Jacobs is the founder of the Bucks County-based The Art of Ecology, which blends the arts and environmental sciences to create a range of interactive programs that are meant to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of our local ecosystem.
“Once we, through hands-on education, learn more about our surroundings and how interconnected plants, animals, habitats, and humans are, we can be the best environmental stewards possible,” reads Jacobs’s mission statement. “When our natural curiosity is sparked, observations will be made on a daily basis. Then we can take action to mitigate some of the challenges our ecosystems face.”
In a year full of upheaval, it became clear, locally and abroad, that climate change is no longer an abstract concept that’s discussed entirely in terms of projections and what-if scenarios. Storms increased in intensity and frequency, causing unprecedented destruction in some instances. Meanwhile, the last couple of years are among the hottest on record for the Delaware River Towns.
It’s easy to feel helpless in the wake of all that. After all, what can you, one person, do about it? A lot, it turns out. While much of the dialogue about climate change revolves around national and global initiatives, Jacobs offers lots of practical advice for how to lead a lifestyle that’s more in harmony with the world around us. Her blog is a good place to start.
In case you’re thinking, I don’t need to be told that everything I’m doing is contributing to our demise, Jacobs’s posts and in-person programs couldn’t be further from that. She’s coming from a place of genuine adoration of the natural world. Rather than say, “Do this, not that,” she’s simply saying, “Try this and watch the world open up in a way it probably hasn’t for you before.”
Case in point: Marissa Jacobs is leading a winter foraging workshop January 22 at the Bucks County Audubon Society, in Solebury. (She’s also doing one at the Peace Valley Nature Center, in Doylestown, February 5.) Admission is $40. You can register here. For the occasion, she’ll be leading a small group into the woods in search of wild edibles – which is something you could easily replicate on your own once you get the hang of it. Then she’ll take everyone inside to create their own tea blends and sample her own wild edibles-inspired recipes, like conifer-blend eggnog, rosehip punch, pine shortbread cookies, and beautyberry honey.
If a stranger encouraging you to eat things you find in the forest is a red flag, know that Jacobs’s credentials are extensive. She graduated from Delaware Valley University with a degree in conservation and wildlife management. She’s also a certified forager and herbalist and National Geographic Society educator, among a host of other specializations.
Lots of us entered this new year pledging to do better when it comes to our planet. Learning at Jacobs’s side is a promising start.