Six extraordinary women were honored with a 2009 Rachel Carson Award by the National Audubon Society at its sixth annual Women in Conservation luncheon Tuesday at The Plaza in New York City.
Allison Rockefeller, whose family has a long legacy in parks conservation, is the founding chairwoman of the Rachel Carson Awards committee. She called the awards, "the most coveted award for American women conservationists," and praised the "extraordinary" honorees for their "brain power," "talent," "energy" and "seriousness of purpose." (She also made a pitch for donations to a worthy program, the Women In Conservation Internship Program.)
The 2009 awardees:
Dr. Sylvia Earle, an oceanographer, author, lecturer and National Geographic Explorer in Residence whose work has expanded awareness and conservation of the fragile marine environment. Former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Earle is president and founder of Deep Search International. She is a record-holding diver, leading more than 60 expeditions and logging more than 60,000 hours underwater. Named "first hero for the planet" by TIME magazine, she is also the inspiration behind the new Google Oceans feature, an interactive element that will allow users to "fly" through oceans and view high-resolution images of underwater topography.
Earle said the award "swept me off my flippers," and reflected on the generation that has passed since Rachel Carson wrote one of her other books, The Sea Around Us, in 1951. "Since then, we have learned more about the sea than in all of human history," Earle said. "In that same time, we have lost more than in all of human history." She urged the audience to look at the ocean and its creatures the way we look at wildlife on land, like birds: "No blue. No green," she said. "Take care of the ocean. It takes care of us."
Sally Jewell, president and CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a national outdoor gear and apparel retailer dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Additionally, Jewell sits on the boards of the National Parks Conservation Association, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Initiative for Global Development and the University of Washington. She also serves on The National Forum on Children and Nature Advisory Board and the National Parks Second Century Commission.
Jewell reflected on Nature Deficit Disorder -- how kids today spend more than 46 hours a week in front of a screen, but only 30 minutes in unstructured play outdoors. "We have to welcome new generations," she said. Otherwise, "our future leaders who are going to represent this great democracy aren't going to protect the environment."
Elizabeth C. Titus Putnam, the president and founder of the Student Conservation Association, the nations largest youth conservation leadership organization. While studying at Vassar College in the mid-1950s, she envisioned a contemporary conservation core that would utilize her strength and the energy of students to respond to the threats facing Americas national parks. Through her hard work, vision and determination, she established and nurtured the SCA. Thanks to her efforts, nearly 4,000 students contribute over two million hours of service each year to protecting and restoring Americas parks, forests, refuges, seashores and communities.
Putnam urged the audience to "combat the notion that the environment is out there," and instead embrace nature close to home -- on streets, in parks, in neighborhoods and back yards. She challenged the audience to "be the adult to provide the companionship to help one child experience the world we live in."
Elizabeth Colleton, Jane Evans and Susan Haspel for NBC Universals "Green Is Universal" Initiative. Launched in May 2007, Green Is Universal is NBC Universal's ongoing effort to promote environmental awareness and action, and to green the companys own operations. Spanning numerous business units, Green Is Universal provides hundreds of hours of green-themed content and activities across all platforms throughout the year and especially during dedicated "Green Weeks." Company executives Beth Colleton, Jane Evans and Susan Haspel lead a wide array of related green efforts, including a pilot program to implement the reduction of carbon emissions and providing over $300,000 in green grants to underserved public education programs.
Colleton discussed ways in which NBC is trying to lead its industry toward greener, less wasteful practices. And she praised the other honorees for embodying the spirit of Rachel Carson: "Rachel Carson was a storyteller. We are storytellers, too," she said. "You guys are the story makers."
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