Two days ago, I had the distinct pleasure of attending this year’s National Audubon Society Women in Conservation Luncheon at The Plaza honoring six exceptional women, recipients of the prestigious Rachel Carson Awards, and I’m still high from it.
I had a great time and met several lovely people, but my favorite moment was having the opportunity to converse with one of the day’s honorees, Dr. Sylvia A. Earle. What a rare bird – gifted with a powerful, yet gentle soul and brilliant mind. When I introduced myself to the distinguished oceanographer, explorer, author and research scientist, and mentioned that my blog encourages, “healthy, green living,” Dr. Earle interjected, “and blue.” We had a good laugh. To what does the marine expert attribute her love of the planet? “My parents really instilled in me the importance to treat humans, as well as other creatures, from a fish to butterfly with dignity and respect.”
Former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Earle is president and founder of the Deep Search Foundation. She alone has lead more than 60 diving expeditions, logged more than 60,000 hours underwater and holds the record for solo diving to a depth of 3,300 feet. As Dr. Earle accepted her award, she advised, “…We still have a chance, there are still coral reefs…if we get it right, there’s still hope. We’ve just got to get over just stop thinking of fish as a commodity…take care of the ocean, it takes care of us. I thank Rachel Carson for inspiring all of us.”
And whom do we thank for creating the Rachel Carson Awards? The National Audubon Society, currently under the leadership of John Flicker, President; and Allison Whipple Rockefeller, Founding Chair of the Rachel Carson Awards Council.
Allison explained that the Council “is a group of 35 women who come together and choose Rachel Carson Awardees. We come from all different work places and interests — from scientists, parks commissioners, environmental justice advocates — to organic farmers, but we all share among ourselves a deep passion for the environmental movement. The Rachel Carson Award is really the most coveted award for American Women Conservationists and Environmentalists…You know as a nation, we consume 25 percent of the world’s energy, yet we are less than 5% of the world’s population.” The award was established to recognize extraordinary talent, resourcefulness, brainpower and responsibility to those who strive to solve environmental problems. The Rachel Carson event benefits Audubon’s Long Island Restoration Project. (R. Carson, above R)
Recipient Sally Jewell, President of REI International, was recognized for her dedication to preserving the environment and encouraging children to participate in outdoor activities, and she shared some shocking statistics. “The reality today is that the average child age 6 to 18 spends 46.5 hours a week of their free time in front of a tv or computer screen and only 30 minutes a week in unstructured outside play….98 percent of children who play sports when they become adults become spectators, only 2 percent continue to play…Future leaders won’t be thinking about the environment if they haven’t been welcomed into the outdoors and into nature…This weekend, take a child by the hand and take then into the outdoors, will you?”
Elizabeth Titus Putnam – as a student at Vassar in 1953, she read an article in Harper’s Magazine, Let’s Close the National Parks, promoting the idea that the Army out to be keeping people out of our parks. Horrified, she started her own volunteer army of students to help conserve our national parks by founding the Student Conservation Association. In 1957, 53 volunteer students helped rangers in our parks, and today, there are 4000 interns providing more than 2 million hours every year helping to maintain trails in all 50 states. 7 out of 10 of these students remain as environmental stewards and activists, as adults.
And 3 women with NBC, Elizabeth Colleton, Jane Evans and Susan Haspel were recognized for their ongoing efforts to raise awareness and effect positive change to the environment via NBC Universal’s Green is Universal initiative. Part of their actions include a pilot program to implement the reduction of carbon emissions and providing over $300,000 in green grants to under-served public education programs.
It was a pleasure to be in such good company, and celebrate the work of outstanding women, key movers and shakers in the green movement.