Know Your Madisonian: Jim Lorman turns passion for lakes into action

2012-06-28T07:00:00Z 2012-10-25T09:50:28Z Know Your Madisonian: Jim Lorman turns passion for lakes into actionInterview by Ron Seely madison.com
June 28, 2012 7:00 am  • 

Jim Lorman, 60, said his decision to settle in Madison 39 years ago was motivated in part by the beauty of the city's lakes.

A professor of biology at Edgewood College and director of the college's Sustainability Leadership Program, Lorman's life since that decision nearly 40 years ago has indeed been dominated by and devoted to the city's waters, especially Lake Wingra. Much of his lauded work at Edgewood has centered on teaching about and promoting the sustainability of our local water resources and Lorman has played an active and important role in local environmental politics.

Settled comfortably in a home near Lake Wingra, Lorman is married to Anne Forbes, also an activist when it comes to local environmental issues.

Q: How long have you taught at Edgewood College? What do you find appealing about working at Edgewood?

A: Thirty-one years. What I like most about Edgewood is the support for teaching across traditional disciplines and for community partnerships. I've been encouraged to pursue my passion for applying my background in ecological science to larger realms, including the Sustainability Leadership Graduate Program. And Edgewood's location is amazing — my office is in the woods on a lake.

Q: Hobbies or interests outside of your professional work?

A: I bike, canoe, garden, listen to music, practice yoga, tinker with permaculture projects, celebrate community, protest injustice — the usual kind of things that politically progressive, too-old-to-be-hipster boomers tend to do.

Q: When did you first become involved in efforts aimed at cleaning up Lake Wingra, and why?

A: I helped found Friends of Lake Wingra in 1998, because many of us realized that there was no single group responsible for coordinating management for the lake, and no vision for how to protect and improve it.

Q: How would you describe progress on efforts to improve all the Madison lakes? Are there lessons from Lake Wingra?

A: My time on the Dane County Lakes and Watershed Commission, and more recently the Clean Lakes Alliance Community Board, has convinced me that we're making good incremental progress, especially with respect to public awareness, creation of public-private partnerships and understanding of the important underlying science.

Q: How does your work with Madison lakes fit in with your other interests?

A: My connection with water has led me to larger issues of sustainability. I began working on the management of watersheds, instead of just lakes, after recognizing that what we do on the land is critical to healthy water. Good watershed management means paying attention to all the things we do — how we build, move us and our things around, grow our food, entertain ourselves, interact with each other. I'm concerned about the extent to which, globally, we are dismantling and degrading the natural resources. Yet I am encouraged by the popular movements that are working to change all this. I like to believe that humanity is on the cusp of a major transformation in our thinking that could save us from collapse. I'm thankful to be here at this amazing time and really anxious to see what happens next in my lifetime. And I can always go down to the lake when things seem out of hand.

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