EcoCity Cleveland to merge with natural history museum

Submitted by Charles Frost on Fri, 06/22/2007 - 06:55.

The front of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History

Submitted by David Beach on June 21, 2007 - 9:30am.
Posted in | David Beach's blog | login or register to post comments »

Yes, it's true. After 15 successful years of promoting the design of ecological cities, EcoCity Cleveland is merging with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. This is a fantastic opportunity to align the resources of two strong and respected organizations — and accelerate the transformation of Northeast Ohio toward greater sustainability.

In the next month, I will become the director of a new Center for Regional Sustainability at the Museum. Other core EcoCity staff members also will transfer to the Museum. Our work and key projects, including this GreenCityBlueLake site, will continue. And, drawing upon the scientific expertise of the Museum, we will be launching a new climate change project to help reduce the region's carbon footprint.

Organizationally, the merger makes perfect sense. EcoCity Cleveland's work will gain a more secure organizational home with the prestige and administrative support of a world-class institution. The Museum will gain expertise that will help it engage the public about how human beings can live sustainably on planet Earth in the 21st century. And Northeast Ohio will gain a prominent center of sustainability thought and practice that will help make the region more competitive.

We are very excited about this opportunity. The staff and Boards of the two organizations worked very hard over many months to make it happen. Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years — the best is yet to come! Go here for more details on the merger, and here for a Plain Dealer story. 


Here is the PD story :

EcoCity Cleveland to merge with natural history museum

Posted by slitt [at] plaind [dot] com June 19, 2007 19:41PM

slitt [at] plaind [dot] com
Plain Dealer Architecture Critic

EcoCity Cleveland, the small but powerful nonprofit organization that has raised environmental consciousness in Cleveland over the past 15 years, will merge over the next year with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

The board of EcoCity approved the merger Tuesday.

Together, the museum and EcoCity will create the museum's new Center for Regional Sustainability, to advance environmental causes in Northeast Ohio and across the state.

"I think this is fantastic," Bruce Latimer, the museum's director, said Tuesday. "This gives us a way to expand in an area we haven't done much with before -- the urban environment. I think that's going to be much more a focus of the natural history museum."

Latimer said the museum and EcoCity, though vastly different in size, are both well-managed, with a long record of budgets in the black.

"This is a case of two institutions that are healthy but together can be even better," he said. "It's not an act of desperation on either side, which is so often the case with mergers. This is not one of those."

The merger begins in July and will be completed over the coming year as EcoCity finishes current projects and moves to the museum from its current location in the Cleveland Environmental Center, at 3500 Lorain Ave.

The merger won't affect the organization's traditional role as environmental watchdog, advocate and public-policy think tank.

"EcoCity Cleveland has always provided an important voice and that will continue," said David Beach, EcoCity's director and founder. "I'm going to assure our members that we're going to keep working on our issues. Nothing is going to be lost in this."

EcoCity has 500 members, a budget of $600,000 and a core staff that ranges from five to seven people, depending on the projects it undertakes.

The museum has a budget of $9 million, a $140 million endowment and a full-time staff of 105.

Latimer said the new sustainability center will publish books, organize programs and conferences, and help shape exhibits. It will also advise the museum on its upcoming expansion and renovation, which is being designed by Fentress Bradburn Architects of Denver.

The museum's ambition is to make its building as green as possible. But the larger goal is to help the entire city become a healthier and more sustainable place in which to live.

"We have to start making urban environments more habitable for humans," Latimer said. "We want the museum to be a leader in the community as to how Cleveland should progress in the future on its river and its lakefront."



And the Press Release is here: press release.pdf press release.pdf



I commend EcoCity on the merger.  Cleveland's institutions need to unite and need to simplify the message as much as possible.  As an urban kid, I had no real exposure to the tenets of 4-H, but this week, we had some positive education from Cuyahoga County's 4-H club.  I don't understand how 4-H is funded and perhaps it should be folded into the Center for Regional Sustainability along with the OSU Extension office and other environmental causes.  We need to value land and water and to understand where our food and energy comes from and how to live lightly on the planet.  From an organizational standpoint, we have too much duplication, which is a waste of energy.

The 4 H's stand for the 4 values of the 4-H organization:

  • Head: Managing, Thinking
  • Heart: Relating, Caring
  • Hands: Giving, Working
  • Health: Being, Living

Merger is interesting

I'm very surprised by this but probably agree with Laura - need to learn more about how all these pieces will fit together and especially go to the next level of acting at scale, like driving policy change (e.g. Great Lakes raclamation, global warming) at state and national level.

Disrupt IT


Combined with the establishment museum, which relies on it's income from philanthropies, this merger means the voice of Eco City must be even more muted, less avant garde, than before.  And for my taste, the problem with EcoCity all along has been that it is way too meek in it’s leadership, direction, and voice.   Environmental change requires voices like Kucinich, like Gore,  like Rachel Carson.   Go out on a limb with the facts and repeat and repeat them to the public.  And damn the income stream….

Good point

Funders do like the meek... and we are all at the mercy of funders.  Too many hungry animals scurrying for the crumbs (I could have used an uglier analogy here, but I won't).

oh jeff, you're such a naysayer!

If you can remember back to 1992 or so when David Beach began this EcoCity effort in his attic on Berkshire Road in Cleveland Heights, alone in sweltering heat while his two sons played in the backyard, basement or sometimes down the street at our house, you might not be so quick to judge and throw up such words as failure in connection to someone who has worked so tirelessly to begin a process of change and repair here in our region.

David has made this his life's work. You can see what he has done online, but have you seen it on the ground?

Have you visited the EcoVillage, have you noticed the bike racks on busses due to David's support of Ryan McKenzie and his 8 year effort to make that happen? Or cycled across the Main Avenue Bridge in an effort to get bike access into that bridge plan? Have you seen the Cleveland Environmental Center built with David's efforts? Have you noticed a Green Building Coalition, a Green Cleveland Exhibit at CIA, an organization caller Greater Ohio at whose meetings one can regularly hear David preaching antisprawl messages? Have you seen Green City Blue Lake as an effort to galvanize a community that prefers to balkanize rather than come together to solve the problems we all face -- to ask that we use environmentalism and sustainability as our road map out of poverty and despair?  Have you not seen that Andrew Watterson's appointment as Sustainability Director of the City of Cleveland is due in large part to David's long chanted argument that this can be a green city on a blue lake? Do you think that Jane Campbell just woke up with a good idea one day and appointed Watterson without endless encouragement from David and his colleagues? Did you notice that Sadhu Johnston was supported in his efforts to begin a Green Building Coalition here in Cleveland by David's longtime efforts to prepare a path for said? I have. But then I am hopeful, and I have lived here to be affected by his work and the accomplishments of EcoCity over the years.

David uses appreciative inquiry rather than writing in all caps. Different people have different styles, and I can certainly appreciate your impatience with the sustainability movement here. My style is decidedly more like yours admittedly.

Should we be manufacturing the wind turbine components for worldwide wind here in Northeast Ohio? Yes! Should we be able to Ride the Wind? Yes! Should we just say no to ODOT’s innerbelt plan? Yes! Should we speak out about government obfuscation and government waste in our community? Yes! Should RAMTECH be operational by now (had it not been co-opted by Tri-C?)? Yes! Should we have a deconstruction business in operation already? Yes! Should we save the Breuer? Yes!


However, by dividing on these issues, we will not conquer. We will not continue the movement toward a green city on a blue lake or an economically enlivened equitable society in our region. I know that you have tried, and that doors have remained closed to your brilliant ideas. I cannot speak to the ignorance and ego of the people who were unable to hear the complex and the simple ideas you have proposed for the region. Nor do I mean to excuse them for their closed mindedness, but I doubt that David is one of them. He will not enter into a shouting match with you; it is not his way. I will argue, that if we continue – all of us – to divide on issues of recovery, we will stand little chance of doing so. There is no silver bullet like a Medical Mart and Convention Center. There is no one project that will return the region to prosperity, justice and a healthy environment. But there are many many people toiling away here in Northeast Ohio who are trying to move in those directions. David Beach and his colleagues are among them. So join us, Jeff and let’s get your ideas in motion here in Northeast Ohio.


I think that if Ecocity’s merger with the Museum of Natural History can bring their work and their advocacy for sustainability into the consciousness of a wider public, then it is a good thing. Money begets money. If the bluebloods will see farther, then this is good. If they can visit the Museum and not only see Audubon’s images of birds we might lose, have lost to overdevelopment and chemical interference with our soil, air and water, then learn what they can do to improve this situation – this is good.


It is possible to see this not as a merger of a small organization with a larger institution, but as a merger of our natural history with the future. "If the future is to be lived the past must be understood." --paraphrase of Kierkegaard, Grace Lee Boggs

Come to Ohio, Jeff and live the future with us. Stand in solidarity with the sustainability or fecundity movement here. Sow your seeds here in person. David has planted and cultivated a garden. He will undoubtedly continue to farm this region to produce food for recovery.  There is room for your ideas and work, too.

And when you're ready to "damn the income stream" -- quit working there in Boston and move to Cleveland and volunteer full time. Come on Jeff, I'm waiting to see the for profit business you have planned for Northeast Ohio.


HATS OFF TO SUSAN - a requiem

All that you say about EcoCity and David is true, I am not a naysayer but disappointed that Cleveland needs to find shelter under the skirts of the establishment.   EcoCity, if they had had your writing and research and promotional force on board, might still be independent.  Kick it up!  See you soon...

independence or interdependence?

I have been reading two books simultaneously. I am not done yet so I will be paraphrasing here. The two books are A People's History of the Third World and Wildcard Quilt. Third World is a discussion that argues for nationalism -- yep. The point being that if these third world nations had managed to have sovereignty, they might be able to protect their resources and determine for themselves what price they would get for coffee, cocoa, rubber, diamonds, ore, etc. They rebelled for independence from their colonial masters, but haven't achieved it because we pulled this trade switcheroo on them where we keep them in poverty by determining that they can only get a low price for what they can grow or produce and we blanket them with "food aid" (a lotta corn, but not enough) so they stay down (obliged like a servant -- dependent) and don't stand a chance of competing in the world market. All this is done in a sort of bread and circuses way where Rupert Murdoch makes sure we get one message (that we're OK and they're stupid and poor) while in fact the real on the ground day to day is quite different. (See Black Gold and White Gold.)


Meanwhile in Wildcard Quilt, an environmentalist writer activist moves home to Baxley, Georgia -- population small, rural, Deep South. She misses the urban and town-sized interactions, but notes that we have become separated from understanding our interdependence. She is plopped right back into knowing where the food comes from -- your garden or your neighbors garden, where the child care comes from -- you or your neighbor, where the activism comes from -- you and your neighbors (because there ain't that dang many of yuh). It's a place where favors are returned unasked because you will see that person by the end of the week, month, year, and they will remember the favor they did for you. People in these small rural places started the saying, "I'd be obliged if you would___." And they were obliged. They were and are interdependent in a way that we can escape in cities.


So I began to wonder if the effort toward the independence of nation states, the notions of freedom and the pursuit of personal happiness had trickled down into our interpersonal inter-organizational relationships. If the words had somehow insinuated their meanings onto us so deeply as to be accepted as something they never set out to be, mean, affect?

Is sovereignty of a nation state the same as sovereignty of the individual? If two organizations have the same or similar missions, do they require separate and sovereign infrastructures be funded on their behalves?


Now ponder that for a minute...


Add now that the population (of the first and second worlds) is aging. What better sums up independence than the sight of an elder living alone, shopping alone, walking alone, eating alone, washing up and heading off to bed alone day after day? Have we pushed out and cordoned off our elders and committed them to live out their days in interminable sovereign loneliness? What about the child who is told by society that they must strike out alone, move away from home and create an identity for her/himself at a strange place (college) alone? Have we suggested, as a byproduct of growth and change, that this necessarily means leaving the family? The number of divorcees (and there are many more now a days) who are living alone after feeling dissatisfied in their marriages (the ones that did not meet the fantasy ideal of a made-for-TV movie union) now reach mammoth proportions as more and more people find themselves living alone. 


When does independence turn to loneliness? At what point does rugged individualism turn to isolation? When does it spell economic disaster or the growth of prosperity?  How many Healthy Choice individual servings must be prepared before we can once again sit down to a table and share a meal? How long til we can once again savor a delicious “Stone Soup” together? And (to the point of this response), how many freakin’ nonprofits must have infrastructures funded to meet the mandates and missions we need them to meet? Does there have to be a nonprofit organization for every style and shape and color of the very same endpoint just because one person's ego is too big to accommodate or negotiate or (god forbid) compromise with that of the other?


In the story of Stone Soup, the traveler seeks to be fed, and no one in the town will admit to having anything to eat. Eventually each townsperson brings forth their offering, and in the end, they all share a wonderful meal that is plenty for all. In that scenario, each is sovereign as each has his own possession, his own natural resource to offer, but the combination of the many different ingredients is what makes a hearty meal.


I can see the joining of efforts as creating a bountiful repast. I can see that we are living in silos that we desperately need to escape. Many of us are working and living alone, cut off from our real interdependence by cellophane wrapped vegetables that travel from who knows where, eating meat that we know nothing about, wearing clothes whose makers and harvesters live in shacks with dirt floors suffering with MDRTB.


Going back to small town life, to recognizing our real interdependence one block, one neighborhood, one organization at a time could be reason not for disappointment, but for rejoicing. I am postulating, but it’s plausible -- at least to me.


Let’s set aside disappointment for now and wish the hard working folks at EcoCity and CMNH a bon chance at having a bountiful harvest to share with our region, an ever deeper understanding of our natural surrounds and a stronger voice for reinventing Cleveland as a green city on a blue lake with a verdant valley in which a cleaner Cuyahoga River winds its meandering way to Lake Erie and to the sea. I raise my glass to the possibility of a healthy ecosystem, one that realizes its interdependence and the future’s reliance on the past.

It is hard to imagine Latimer selling-out

Say what you may about the Natural History Museum being establishment but Bruce Latimer certainly isn't - I've heard him speak many times and he is the most hard core Darwinian realist you'll ever meet.  With the addition of HealthSpace to the Natural History Museum we see a health and life sciences center taking form. This fits well with study of ecosystems, althought I see the "city" part of ecoCity fitting better with other organizations, like Kent CUDC and CSU Levin. In any case, I know some other folks at the Natural History Museum and they hosted our recent Lead Education Conference so I have lots of respect for them. As they are about to do a major expansion they can reshape the museum in core ways so perhaps the best way to proceed  is with suggestions for how to integrate all this into a great facility to suit your interests. Post suggestions here!

BTW, here are some of my note from a Latimer talk a few years ago - read the whole thing here.

I stepped in late to Natural History
Director Bruce Latimer's talk on sustainability of sustainability with sobering
insight from a biologist on evolution of man, that we are on a run away train
headed toward the abyss, that termites are more important to the Earth than
humans, that we are all Africans, that man is hard wired to compete, and that
odds are 60/40% against the survival of humanity. He is not hopeful mankind -
man unkind - will survive more than the next few generations. He sees the only
hope of human survival is that we hijack our hard wiring to compete with
economic reward for doing the right things - getting together like we are today
and talk about the problems and find the right solutions - and we must do that
at a global level. China will not decide they want less than Americans and we
already need 4 planets Earth to support what we already consume.

I ask Latimer if as a biologist it is safe to assume man is meant to become
extinct - he replies 99% of species have gone extinct and it is safe to say we
will as well - our problem is our brain has allowed us to exceed consumption of
the resources appropriate to our species - I ask if we are an evolutionary
experiment gone wrong - he says perhaps so.

Disrupt IT

natural healthy city -- deconstructing the silos

If you had time to listen to Grace Lee Boggs' interview with Bill Moyers, you might think even more broadly about the way that the health of the individual, the family and the society is interconnected with such things as social justice, urban planning and crafting an equitable, healthy, educated populace. (I know you already do Norm – this is directed to the broader reader, but Boggs is soooo worth the time if ever you need inspiration for what you are doing.)

Boggs (who is currently 91) giving a speech in 1996.

"I am glad that I am still around not only as a participant but as a griot to pass on the story of how we got to this place — because, to paraphrase Kierkegaard, if the future is to be lived, the past must be understood." and "I rejoice at the changing of the guard and at the fact that the new generation, which is beginning to discover its mission, is more open than the generation that led the movements of the 1960s."

I so appreciate this merger and the one with the Healthspace for this very reason -- we are pulling down the silos of the past -- the idea that this issue belongs here and that one there. The issues we face overlap; the push and pull on other issues. Look at the Cultural Gardens vs. Doan Brook restoration for example. Who can lead us out of that mess?

Will a highway project have an affect on our standard of living?, our water, air, soil? You bet. Will we need an advocate who can study lead contaminated soils and housing stock? Yes. Is it important to discover, uncover how we arrived at where we are? Yes. Do we need to understand why our parents and grandparents did the things they did, instituted the reforms (however now inappropriate they may now seem) they instituted? Yes, because we have to see more than just where we are. We must have a grip on what led us to this point. It will inform us as to how to proceed.

George Santayana once stated, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Perhaps the resources available at the Museum, its vast knowledge base, combined with the innovation and advocacy Ecocity can bring will indeed be a whole systems organization that will serve the future development of our region. There have been talks at the Museum about the affects of lead, the Museum hosted MOCA's new architect discussion, and they presented the discussion by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. I applaud the CMNH for broadening beyond dinosaurs and the dusty exhibits of taxonomy that once defined Museums of Natural History. History is now -- we are making it.

In these ways and many more, I can see the benefit of having an exhibit and education organization dedicated to learning about these issues and with them the future building, policy changing advocacy organization to lead us toward a healthier more equitable way of life.

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T. S. Eliot

I agree about future of NHM

Yes, this offers many exciting possibilities. I hope we see a strong R&D and advocacy function - activism - with tight alignments with area universities and government - what is coming together should be globally important, as the NHM already is in so many fields and ways... and has been for decades....

Disrupt IT

??? Link to Boggs / Moyers ???


Do you have, can you make available, the link to the interview you reference?

Thanks ...

Karen M.

Grace Lee Boggs

Hey KMaCK--I caught the Grace Lee Boggs interview on Bill Moyers one night when I could not sleep. Thank you Susan for the link. Check out her books from Cleveland Public Library.  Inspirational women unite :)  By the way,  I want to go on the record to say that I love Bill Moyers. 

I've just met my new She-ro

WOW !!!  guys for turning me on to this DYNAMIC woman.

Karen M.

boggs link


It was in the "Jeff you're such a naysayer" post above. Thanks Laura for adding it here.

I wrote to Amy Hanauer of Policy Matters Ohio to ask if perhaps she would spearhead an effort, host co-host maybe with CSU Urban College to get this woman here to speak to us in person.


See also this article from the Detroit Metrotimes, Down a green path

4-H of the 21st century

"I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world."


I grew up in the country and 4-h was a big part of my upbringing.  i don't know how it is funded today but back then it was funded by the County Co-ops which had something to do with the USDA.  I think I remember that 4-H started officially right here in Ohio around 1900.

Basically, we learned by doing and tried to make the best better.  Some kids had livestock that they nurtured and then auctioned at the county fairs.  Others grew vegetables, flowers and other things to compete for the largest pumpkin, the reddest tomato, etc.  We learned a lot about working together and community things.

Funny, how just the other day our Kiwanis funded an urban 4-H club and their fundraising efforts for the Cuyahoga County Junior Fair Board.  The county fair is where the fruits of everyone's labors is always shown.

Conservation was a big part of what we learned back then and how appropriate is that for the 21st century.  4-H may not be a lot about home economics or the latest farm techniques but what a wonderful way for young people to teach the older ones about rain barrels, recycling, alternative energy and much more.

Great idea, Laura!

Meaningful or Mitigating Merger ?

My take on the merger is simple - if it generates win-win-win outcomes for CMNH, Eco-City, and the Community at Large respectively, then its all good in my book.  I am also happy for Mr. Macdermott, who has spent a lifetime of service in service to the CMNH (indirectly) via the time-honored educational institution, the Kirtlandia Society.


Typically a merger also works when synergy is maximized (one plus one maximally greater than two) and we can effectively mitigate risk and cost to both parties by optimally leveraging complementary resources and assets.  This allows both entities to deliver winning outcomes in partnership and once merged, as a whole.


I've also much appreciated Bill's work and support of my efforts to spawn sustainability inculcation with Ingenuity Festival (thanks so much for your inimitably ingenious solar panel - to - micro fan model) as well as playing a wonderful role as sounding board on so many things sustainable and green - hopefully we will be able to integrate your solar and wind products, Bill - into our own green building and design efforts in East Cleveland.  I also laud your support in attending our REALNEO roundtables and open houses over the years - especially our most recent ones at the Star Complex / Hough Bakery.

Congratulations on your new position, I look forward to visiting the Center.   As a mention on Bruce Latimer, he deserves a world of recognition as noted anthropologist and archeologist / researcher.  Most rightfully consider him a fossil fan and fossil man and I mean no disrespect.   What I will never forget, however, was his presentation at Case Weatherhead at an REI sesison attended by good friend Linda Robson and others in which he discussed the way we humans are 'hard wired' to be primitive primates and inherently self-interested creatures.  What I would like to long debate with him, however, iis that I believe we have a tremendous capacity to circumvent the hardwiring in a multitude of ways - and not just ways like the military traditionally has - by breaking down the individual and enforcing a new 'groupthink'-pervaded collective thought and belief system.  

I contend that we all have the capacity to temper and transcend self interest and ego - to maintain that amount of ego necessary for self preservation but collectively show we can embrace models that uplift the suffering and underprivileged and create great new opportunities for us all in terms of quality of life as a result. 

Case in point - faciliating growth and opporutunity for East Clevelanders suffering from  servant mentality, depressive and other mental issues, learned helplessness or hopelessness - all these can create new markets for products and services our regional businesses can reap rewards from, generate new levels of safety in both safe and unsafe locales, and cultivate a graeter collective hope, inspiration, and enthusiasm that can become more contagious and prolific than the hardiest of viruses, bloodborne or technological.

Great post, Bill and my congratulations - please join us at the Star for our next open house!