Counting our Blessings: Reflections on working in the conservation movement
Earlier this year, Dr. Colin Campbell, Sierra Club BC’s Science Advisor of 10 years, retired. His contribution to the work we do was immeasurable. His formidable intelligence, his calm approach, his cunning wit and his humility touched everyone who had the pleasure to work with Colin. He is sorely missed. In tribute, no one could speak more eloquently than Colin Campbell himself.
Dr. Colin Campbell’s Retirement Speech, January 17, 2015
My work in the conservation movement I consider to be the summation of a series of blessings. A key blessing has been the people in my life. First of all, of course, my family, mostly brought to me by Nancy, of whom there are four generations present tonight. Their constant support and validation has sustained me over many years in this work.
Then there are those friends from outside my work, who will listen and tell me when to stop. I present my arguments, tell them how things are and what we need to do about it and they say well let’s talk about fishing. Many of my friends and family have become and are direct supporters of the Sierra Club. We have to acknowledge that we bring our friends to the work.
And then there are colleagues inside the Sierra Club who I’ve found to be incredibly talented, incredibly wise, and often incredibly young. A measure of what people think about our organization is, I think, the number of people who apply for jobs. Sometimes we get 80 applicants for jobs ranging from financial management to campaigners to education to media. There are colleagues also from other organizations. We have to remember that we are not in this alone. We have companion teams working on the same problems. It’s a discipline as much as it is a movement. It has its own set of skills and we learn on the job, generally.
In speaking about my contribution, I want to reiterate what I always say to public audiences when speaking for the Sierra Club. The first slide I project with the Sierra Club logo has the following text. It says, “We envisage a world in which people live and prosper in a way that protects, restores, and heals the natural systems of our planet.” This is not exactly the way the Sierra Club presents itself in words but I think it’s compatible and it’s the way I have always felt about it so I’m happy to put that out there. And then in our work at the Sierra Club, we always keep two things in mind. Firstly, no matter what we do or what we achieve, we still eat and we still breathe and these vital activities can only proceed on a healthy planet so we have a duty of care for those processes. These vital functions are maintained by living species and systems with no voice of their own. It’s our privilege to represent those voices. We do care for humanity but we manifest our caring in this way.