National Audubon Society
Beneath the glittering chandeliers of The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, Rachel Carson Award honorees sat among 400 guests for Audubon’s annual Women in Conservation Luncheon at the end of May. This year’s honorees, a reverend, a businesswoman, and a transportation commissioner, each contribute something entirely different to conservation, demonstrating the variety of ways that women can follow in Rachel Carson’s footprints and improve the world around them.
“Women are less territorial, I think, more inclusive, more healing oriented. We’re good at and know about loving things, protecting things. It is in our nature to care,” said Allison Rockefeller, the award council’s founding chair, addressing the crowd. “We’re full of substantive questions, concern, follow through, and action. I think we thought of things and think of things, women, holistically.”
As the guests dined on organic foods and local produce from Katchkie Farm, 16 women who are making the city more sustainable stood up to be recognized. “These individuals have made spectacular contributions to New York City’s greening effort through volunteering, grassroots outreach, education programs, faith-based organizing, government departments, media outreach, local business support, and non-profit work,” the program stated.
The first award recipient, Reverend Canon Sally Bingham, founded The Regeneration Project, an interfaith ministry meant to connect ecology and faith in a deeper way. One of the campaigns within the project, Interfaith Power & Light, “an effort to stem global warming, is a group effort,” she said, encouraging everyone to get involved in initiatives that improve the planet’s health.
L. Hunter Lovins, (typically) distinctive for her cowboy hat, who helps implement more sustainable business practices through her non-profit, Natural Capitalism Solutions, used her turn at the podium to discuss private enterprise and the environment. “Sustainability is not the burden on the bottom line it was thought to be; it’s the touchstone of all innovation in the future, and only companies that have sustainability as a goal will achieve competitive advantage,” she said. This coming fall, she’ll be teaching at Bard, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, in their new MBA program in sustainability. “The women in this room have the power, ability, and the voice to transform the economy,” she said.
Commissioner for the New York City Department of Transportation, Janette Sadik-Khan, was the final award recipient. It’s important to offer multiple modes of transportation as the metropolis’s population swells, she said, pointing to a new bike sharing program as one of the initiatives that will help further reduce the city’s collective carbon footprint. “What we call the environment is one of the greatest discoveries of our era,” she said.
The celebratory afternoon ended in rounds of applause. Next year, the event’s 10th anniversary, will recognize a new brigade of women leaders in the field. “We are highly committed to changing the idea that great women in the environmental and conservation movements are few and far between,” Allison Rockefeller wrote in an email before the event. “People ask me, ‘Aren't you likely to run out of great women honorees?’ I'm stunned! We will never keep pace with women’s leadership in the environmental and conservation movements. Remarkable individual achievers and achievers in collective efforts are everywhere out there, and we make it our business to acknowledge the best among them.”