Earth Day Inspiration
May 10, 2021
By Mani Oliva, CEO
Having been in this field for many years, I have had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the most brilliant and passionate individuals dedicated to conserving our natural world and fighting climate change. These are individuals who have inspired me and who I continue to draw my optimism from. I recently was reminded of one such individual when I saw her powerful Earth Day speech a few weeks ago, Dr. Jane Goodall.
Many years ago, at an event in Washington DC to discuss the importance of nature-based solutions to fight climate change, Dr. Goodall was a guest speaker. She spoke with a clarity of purpose and passion that was infectious to everyone at the event. Like everyone else there I was mesmerized and inspired. After her speech I approached her and thanked her for her words and for her lifetime of work. As we talked and shared stories about some of the communities we have worked with across the globe I made a grave error: I asked her about the stuffed toy gorilla she was carrying. At that point she looked at me with stern eyes and told me that I was mistaken, it was in fact a monkey that she was carrying, Mr. H. She then proceeded to explain in the most patient tone the difference between gorillas and monkeys and took my hand and had me hold Mr. H’s tail to prove her point. (In my defense the way she was holding him prevented me from seeing the tail and so he did not resemble a chimpanzee in shape, so I assumed a gorilla.) To this day I do not fully remember all the words she used, I remember the kindness in her voice and clear love for the subject she was speaking of during those few minutes of a well-deserved lesson.
I was reminded of that experience as I listened to her Earth Day speech. The way she balanced urgency and optimism, passion and determination, and the imagery she conjured within her words as she asked us to celebrate and protect this small green blue sphere circling the sun. She stressed the importance of changing our relationship with nature and wildlife, and she emphasized that social justice and conservation are inextricably linked–we cannot succeed in protecting nature without taking care of each other. Like so many years ago I felt her once again holding my hand and patiently guiding me.
Dr. Goodall is an inspiration to many who work in this field and so many more around the world. And in the closing minutes of her Earth Day talk she took time to acknowledge that she is only one voice within a chorus of others working together to protect our natural world. These words resonated with me as I considered the immense privilege I have working with the brilliant and dedicated staff at Point Blue. Serving as a witness to their curiosity and passion as they teach young students, track the health of birds and other species on land and water, restore degraded ecosystems and many more of the activities they pursue each and every day to protect nature so that it may sustain thriving wildlife and human communities. And we are only one voice in powerful chorus of partners and supporters, learning from each other and creating a conservation movement that can meet the urgency we face from climate change collectively. As we have done for more than half a century, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to science and our mission, and we will continue to be inspired by our community.