| Graduation at UW-Madison
|Patrick Bass would someday like to own his own
wildlife preseve to save animal species from
click then, possible seeds were planted for an environmental career. It was a career that would eventually blossom inside Bass.
“What you major in isn’t always your first choice,” Bass said. “When I came to UW-Madison, I thought about doing zoology, but then I ended up doing mechanical
engineering for my first two years. And then my junior year, I switched over. I didn’t know if I really wanted to do mechanical engineering. I didn’t know if it was
working out for me. I could do it, but it was taking too much out of me. My passion wasn’t there. That was a problem. I was trying to do it, but it was such a drag.
And then I switched to zoology and I found out that when you are interested in what you are doing, it’s not that hard of work.”
Bass ended up with a double major in zoology and environmental science. Bass had found his passion.
“I actually was doing this program called Community Environmental Scholars Program,” Bass said. “It encourages people to get their certificate in environmental
studies. It gives a scholarship. It’s just a great opportunity to build another base of like family. I love the people who run it, Kathy and Rob. They are just so
awesome. They welcome everyone. They get people engaged and excited about the environment. I felt that I want kids to also be excited about working with the
environment. I want them to realize that it is here today and could be gone tomorrow. It’s because of our impact. We just don’t realize it. And that’s a problem that
we need to solve.”
Bass is keenly aware of the impact of climate change.
“I have seen the effect of climate change,” Bass said. “I’ve taken a lot of classes showing the effect of climate change. I go by effects and that is all that I can see.
There isn’t a doubt in my mind. There are a lot of animals and species that are going extinct and people don’t really know about it. Giraffes just got placed on the
endangered species list from what I heard. Invasive species have a huge impact on native animal populations as well. There is a lot that goes into it.
And according to Bass, one only has to look out one’s own back yard to see the impact of climate change.
“There is a lot of invasive species right in Lake Monona,” Bass said. “That’s why there is so much green algae is blooming, because of the invasive species.
There is an imbalance in the ecosystem and that’s why there is a blue algae bloom. It’s a huge problem in our lakes. It’s killing fish. It’s making the water anoxic,
which is oxygen free. If it doesn’t have oxygen, the fish aren’t able to survive. Right in front of Monona Terrace it looks fine. But when it is deeper in the summer
and the amount of phosphorus is growing because of runoff from agriculture, there isn’t going to be any more oxygen. And the fish die. Right now, it doesn’t look too
bad. But I’ve seen it really bad in past years. It was definitely really bad last year.”
And Bass feels the need to do something about it.
“People are realizing it more,” Bass said. “At the Nelson Institute, that’s what we talk about. The idea of the environment and what that is to people and nature and
what that is to people; we could hear these words, but they don’t mean the same thing. I think nature is more of an idea of the wilderness, which is untouched and
sublimed. There isn’t an impact by humans. That’s my idea of nature. There is a huge discussion about what needs to be saved and how we are going to save it.
We can’t get away from the lakes. We can’t tear down all of the trees. We can enjoy it for a little bit. We need parks. And we actually need trees for clean oxygen. If
we don’t have trees, they aren’t going to cycle out the pollutants. They are very important.”
For some, environmentalism has been seen as a white liberal concern. But for Bass and a growing number of African Americans and other young professionals of
color, we can’t afford to have that stereotype.
“I’m glad to see more people of color joining my cohort,” bass said. “In my Community Environmental Scholars Program cohort, a lot of my fellow students were of
color. I can see the growth. It’s not just one ethnicity trying to fight the battle. We’re all trying to fight the battle. It’s not a racial thing. It’s a world thing. It is
something that affects all of us.”
Upon graduation, Bass will continue to keep close to his south side roots when he begins a job with the WI Dept. of Natural Resources.
“I’m going to start working for the DNR in June doing public water supply resources management,” bass said. “I will be a public water supply specialist. I’m doing
an internship through the DNR. I will be right here in Dane County. I’ll be right on Fish Hatchery Road where the fish hatchery is.”
At some point, however, Bass plans to leave the hatchery, so to speak, and have more of a national or international impact.
“I want to do more work in wildlife conservation in the Everglades,” Bass said. “They are going through it right now with not having clean water and the lack of
fresh water. And it’s all because of climate change. The polar ice caps are melting because the ozone layer is being depleted by CO2. That’s impacting all of us.”
Don’t be surprised if someday, you turn on the Discovery Channel and see Bass starring in The Crocodile Hunter II, following in Steve Irwin’s footsteps.
“I would like to work with endangered species, just trying to help get their population back up,” Bass said.
For the sake of the animals, let’s hope he does.
By Jonathan Gramling
When Patrick Bass was young, he used to watch The Crocodile Hunter on TV and was fascinated by the
animals and Steve Irwin’s mission to educate people about wildlife and to save the species that were
nearing extinction. He resolved that he would do that someday.
Now that wasn’t necessarily something that people would expect from a young man who grew up on Madison’
s south side. But Bass has stayed true to that dream, spurred on my events and family to achieve his dreams.
When Bass went to Leopold Elementary and James C. Wright Middle School, he wasn’t really focused on
much beyond his own backyard. While he was enrolled in the PEOPLE Program during middle school, the
light bulb hadn’t come on. But then he went to La Follette High School and his world got bigger.
“Michelle Olson pushed a lot of us to do more for the community and not just for ourselves,” Bass said. “In
high school, a crucial part of my success was being able to do Youth Corps and restorative justice. We did
circles that helped them venture out into different parts of the community and the state. Having the
opportunity to do those kinds of organizations made me more of a community-based person. I felt like I
wanted to make a difference. Restorative justice made me feel like there is a bigger picture to everything. It
doesn’t have to be like, ‘Okay you did this. You’re going to be punished.’ There are more restorative ways to
do things. There shouldn’t be a punishment all the time.”
During his middle school experience, Bass took limnology and veterinary science. While it didn’t necessarily