“It’s much more important to change your leaders than to change your lightbulbs.” The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman delivered these bold words at CI's November 2007 dinner. The event, hosted by Kathleen Matthews of Marriott International, was entitled Forces for Change.
A force for change is the perfect description of the man Friedman was introducing, Michael Bloomberg. New York City’s mayor received a standing ovation from the 400-strong crowd before he said a word –an indication of how inspiring his vision of a sustainable city truly is.
Authentic leadership, like his, is badly needed as our global society faces environmental crises, such as climate change. Perhaps what the audience found most remarkable about Bloomberg’s PlaNYC were the measurable, near-term benchmarks built into the ambitious program. Bloomberg pointed out that his efforts to bring fresh air and clean water to New York now parallel what CI is doing globally to protect our Earth’s health.
CI Scientist Bruce Beehler was on hand to give an example of CI’s world changing work.
In late 2005, Beehler discovered a treasure trove of “lost” species in the Foja Mountains of Indonesia’s Papua Province. The worldwide media attention this remarkable discovery garnered has given CI unique leverage to protect Papua’s pristine forests. A 60 Minutes special about Beehler’s 2nd expedition and discoveries in the Foja Mountains is scheduled to air this season.
CI Board Member Ann Friedman closed the evening. Friedman, who teaches reading, observed that many of the creatures best-loved by her students are disappearing from the Earth. “How sad for them that their favorite animals may exist only in books or zoos when they grow up,” she observed. But she noted that some of her students’ favorite species, such as the bald eagle and American buffalo, had recovered from the edge of extinction. This, said Friedman, “Is proof that we can make a difference and that it’s not too late.”
Perhaps this optimistic vision was best phrased by CI CEO and Chairman Peter Seligmann. Seligmann pointed out that people, businesses, and governments worldwide were focused on solving the problems facing the environment. “People are awake. In my thirty years of conservation I have never seen a moment like this.”