Watch Wednesday – In the Footsteps of Giants 12 January 2022


“Is there a party going on we didn’t get an invitation to? (Thankfully.)”

I wrote this over the holidays to take the edge off something going on amongst our small National Geographic Explorers’ group, after three or four days of getting news about the several giants of our world who had decided to move on to another. Some quotes from each are quite inciteful.

“The destruction of the Earth’s environment is the human rights challenge of our time.” This came from Desmond Tutu, a real surprise from someone who had dedicated his life to human rights but indicative of just how connected we are now, for good and for bad.

Amongst these giants though, along with Archbishop Tutu, was Dr. Tom Lovejoy, the father of the phrase ‘biodiversity’. A man whom I once introduced to an audience with “And anyone who doesn’t know about Tom Lovejoy should just leave the room!”

Professor E.O. Wilson followed, the scientist who discovered thousands of different ants, named them, and has defined the target of preserving 30% of the planet by 2030, a challenge to all of us. When Beverly was talking to E.O. (as he was called) a few years ago he said “Do you know the species I am most worried about not even making 2030? The rhino.” As the flames of hell (for elephants) danced behind him at a massive ivory burn that he had orchestrated, Dr. Richard Leakey turned to Beverly and me and said, “Unless we save every last one now, we’re all sunk.” And then with a glint in his eyes that was always worrying, said “So, over to you….” It is a responsibility we carry daily.

There is a commonality and warning in their words, “Take care of it all now, or not only will it be gone very soon, but so will we.”

The decisions we make on behalf of wildlife (biodiversity) and the planet, must be made really quickly now if in eight years, according to science, we need to gain enough wildlife and land under protection to survive. So while it is sad to lose very close friends, I am also invigorated by walking in the footsteps of these giants of conservation and that is not a bad way to set out to navigate 2022, with purpose.

What you can expect from us at Great Plains Conservation and Great Plains Foundation, including Project Ranger, this year is a commitment to pick up the baton, walking sticks, and ideals of these giants (and personal mentors of ours) and stride forward, strengthened by the direction they gave us, not on their shoulders, but now moving ahead of them, making our own footsteps.

Thank you, Tom, Richard, EO and Arch. I wonder if the party you are at now knows what troublemakers have just arrived?

Welcome to the future.

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