They are some of society's most influential women. They are lawyers and chairwomen, photographers and teachers; some are our board members. Now, they are also the core members of a new group that will convene regularly to examine environmental challenges and their solutions.
The Inaugural Luncheon
Last Wednesday, the Womens Conservation Forum, launched by Conservation International (CI) board member Ann Friedman, held its inaugural luncheon in a series of meetings that will address global warming, pollution, and various other threats to biodiversity. Participants discussed the several "tipping points" that can propel the conservation movement forward whether by engaging religious communities, political leaders, or businesses like Wal-Mart in conserving our Earth.
"I come out of the CI board meetings so enthusiastic," Friedman said Wednesday, explaining why she started the group. It was Friedmans goal to share that enthusiasm with other women, and engage them in conservation issues. "Im so pleased that so many women wanted to grapple with the complex issues of conservation."
The Intersection of Conservation and Faith
First on the groups roster of guest speakers were CI chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann and Harvard entomologist Edward O. Wilson, who spoke about the intersection of conservation and faith. Wilsons newest book, The Creation, asserts that religious leaders and conservationists have a common responsibility to conserve Earths living heritage.
Wilson, a Pulitzer-prize winner and former CI board member, told the group that finding common ground with evangelical Christians was a formative moment in his career. "Its given me more optimism than anything Ive ever done," Wilson said. "The big overall tipping point which involves the will of the people is really, I believe, not that far off."
A new initiative at CI strives to bring people of all faiths into the movement to better protect the planet. CI is hopeful it can engage religious leaders in a manner consistent with their communitys values, whether those values are rooted in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, indigenous spiritual beliefs, or others.
Harnessing the Power of Women
Those at the forum agreed that gathering powerful, like-minded women together has potential to change behaviors and improve society. "Its just harnessing that power into this particular cause," said committee member Jill Cooper Udall.
Looking ahead, the Womens Conservation Forum plans to screen Tom Friedman's Discovery Channel documentary, Addicted to Oil, as part of the D.C. Environmental Film Festival. It also plans to tour the Green House exhibit at the National Building Museum and consider ways to reduce home energy usage.
"Women are the first ones to recognize that biodiversity applies directly to their own lives," said photographer and committee member Cristina Mittermeier. "They're the first ones that are impacted by water, by disease, bearing children. We are going to create another tipping point here."