Field Museum President and CEO Dr. Richard Lariviere presenting the Parker/Gentry Award to Rhett Butler during a ceremony on September 3, 2014
Last week I received the Parker/Gentry Award for Conservation from the Field Museum. Several people have asked about my award acceptance speech, so I’ve included the introduction and the conclusion below.
But before I get to that, I would like to thank the Kaye family for conceiving of and endowing the award. Ken Kaye made some inspiring remarks at the event, encouraging others to follow in his footsteps and contribute financially toward initiatives to make the world a better and more beautiful place.
Parker/Gentry Award for Conservation Acceptance Speech
It is a tremendous honor to receive this award and it means so much to come from an institution as distinguished as the Field Museum. Thank you to the museum and everyone involved in this unexpected recognition.
Ted Parker and Al Gentry were giants in their fields. Conservation suffered an incredible loss when their plane went down 21 years ago. While I never had the privilege of meeting them, if they were alive today I believe they would be impressed with the progress that has been in conserving the world’s forests. At the same time, they might be depressed with what has been lost.
My own role in this world started at an early age, but the path to doing what I do today has been far from direct. If you’d asked me 20 years ago what I thought I was be doing in 2014, I probably would have said “something in finance or management consulting.” I certainly never would have fathomed that I would be running a popular platform for informing the public on environmental concerns and conservation science. But I’m grateful that I’ve been able to work hard and follow my passion.
Mongabay is really rooted in my upbringing, thanks to my parents who always encouraged me to explore and appreciate the world around me.
[From here, the talk was unscripted. I told the mongabay story, including my inspiration, the site’s growth and impact, and hopes for the future. I also highlighted for reasons that I’m optimistic for the world’s rainforests.]
It’s hard to believe that 6 years ago, Mongabay was one person. Now the team is more than 60, when we count our network of contributors. And if we add in volunteer translators and interns, it’s more than 200 people working toward disseminating knowledge about the world’s ecosystems. The Mongabay family ranges from teens to retirees and spans 6 continents, but all share a common passion for nature and wildlife.
Mongabay has done all this on a budget less than the average salary of two Silicon Valley tech workers. Now were working to scale up our resources to support new projects.
In the near term, the Global Reporting Network should grow to include contributors from more countries, enabling us to cover more topics and provide more opportunities for environmental journalists to get paid for their hard work. I’m hoping to expand our education initiative so that it meets new standards and links classrooms in America with classrooms in Indonesia, Peru, Brazil, and other places. And I have my heart set on launching Mongabay-Latam, a Spanish-language environmental news service modeled after Mongabay-Indonesia, that spans Spanish-speaking Central and South America with correspondents from Mexico to Argentina.
Those are just a few things I hope are in store for Mongabay in the near future.
To conclude, I’d like to reiterate that everyone has a role to play in moving toward a better future for the world’s wild lands and wildlife. Whether you’re a banker, teacher, artist, computer programmer, or stay-at-home-parent doesn’t matter. Conservation needs your talents and passion.
Thank you again to the Field Museum for this great and unexpected honor. Thank you also to my family.
Mongabay’s Jeremy Hance wrote up the award announcement here.
During the trip, the U.S.-based Mongabay team had its first-ever in-person staff meeting. All four full-time employees met in Minnesota.
Mongabay.com’s U.S. team (full-time staff only — apologies to our contributors, interns, and translation coordinator Brittany Stewart): Rhett Butler, Morgan Erikson-Davis, Tiffany Roufs, and Jeremy Hance.