ServiceNation summit pt.5 – Conservation All-Stars


The Stewards of the Planet panel here at ServiceNation hosted an impressive lineup of prominent figures in conservation! I was happy to recognize a number of people present at SCA’s EarthVision summit last April…

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne had some wonderful opening remarks to the assembled press and volunteers, and took the time to acknowledge Civilian Conservation Corps alumnus Walter Atwood, praising him and his fellow Corps members for their service.

He then – and I swear I didn’t hand him a note telling him to say this – acknowledged SCA founder Liz Putnam and her legacy as an inheritor to the CCC. Hooray for prestige!

Members of the Panel included Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chairman of the Waterkeeper Alliance. He cited the “accumulation of insults” to our environment by polluters as the cause for the uprising of American citizens in the 1960’s to demand action by their government. This led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency at the federal level, and thousands of new conservation-minded nonprofits across the country.

Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, spoke next. Now, Habitat is a tremendously respected organization and I certainly revere the work their volunteers have done and continue to do for our people. But I was delighted to hear Reckford focus on Habitat’s new initiatives to always use local, low-cost materials to build in America’s towns, to work harder to build Energy Star and LEED-certified buildings, and really green their already stellar organization.

Green For All’s Founder & President Van Jones was next to speak, and he shared his wonderfully positive and progressive vision for “A green economy in the United States,” and moving from “The leader in pollution to the leader in solutions.”

Jones said that by weatherizing homes, enormous amounts of energy could be saved in our country. And with the realization of a Green Energy Corps, Jones says that millions of new jobs would be created to help weatherize those homes. Doing so would not only give the young people in those jobs a paycheck, Jones said, but also a purpose.

I was happy to hear Jones point out Energy Action Coalition co-founders Jessy Tolkan and Billy Parish in the crowd, who I didn’t even know were there! When I was touring campuses in support of EarthVision, it really made me happy every time I saw someone in an Energy Action t-shirt; Tolkan and Parish have worked so hard to become a near-household name on campuses, and we all benefit from it.

Alex Lopez of the LA Conservation Corps spoke next, about the importance of “Enriching, empowering, and providing young people with opportunities to serve our environment.” Mr. Lopez, I work for SCA because I believe in the exact same thing. On behalf of the SCA, thank you for all that you do!

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of time for Q&A after each panelist had spoken about their conservation initiatives. But I didn’t mind; for me, it was so rewarding to sit down with these absolutely tremendous leaders and hear how they are helping others make a difference in this world. This summit, if absolutely nothing else, has reinforced my belief that Service to the Environment is the most important effort that people can make to ensure the health of our planet as we motor into the 21st century.

My last update in this post is pretty special. Alicia Keys, her voice soulful even in everyday speech, told us all that “In our world, there is no higher expression of our shared humanity than our service to one another.”

Keys ended the first half of the day with a few lines, sung a capella, for us to keep: It’s been a long time comin’ / but I know change is gonna come / yes it is.

Cheers to change, to a new era of service, and to this wonderful summit. I’m having an amazing time.

More to come!