Last week, I had lunch at Ballston’s Willow Restaurant with Glenn Pickett, the Chief External Affairs Officer of The Nature Conservancy. The Conservancy is the largest environmental organization on the planet, and their world headquarters in Arlington is just a stone’s throw from Willow.
For decades, The Nature Conservancy has focused on protecting the world’s biodiversity. And they have been very successful in terms of both acres preserved and raised awareness. Their slogan “Saving the World’s Last Great Places” was almost as well known as Coke’s “The Real Thing.”
Of course, no one ever mistook Arlington’s Four Mile Run as one of the “World’s Last Great Places.” While our little stream may be very important for the people who live here, it is not exactly a hot zone of biodiversity.
But there has been a recent change in focus for The Conservancy, a shift that began after they took up residency in Ballston. As Mr. Prickett explained, “for years we were protecting nature from people, now we are protecting nature for people.”
Certainly this new emphasis is much more in keeping with The Conservancy’s “hometown” of Arlington than with the Brazilian rain forests. While Arlingtonians may appreciate nature, we are not the type to stand behind the velvet ropes and admire the outdoors like visitors to a museum. Rather, we like to get our hands dirty on hikes along --- and through --- our streams.
After all, we are part of the natural world. As noted conservationist Audrey Zapp once told me, “birdseed is for birds, trees are for people!” For better or worse, we are all gardeners in this little world, and we must take care of the natural systems that sustain all life, including our own.
Perhaps being in Arlington helped The Conservancy with its new understanding. I would like to think so.
By the way, The Nature Conservancy has a new tagline: “Protecting nature. Preserving Life.” And that slogan is as fitting in the Conservancy’s “hometown” of Arlington as anywhere else on the planet.
Mike Nardolilli serves as President of the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust, President of the Arlington Outdoor Lab, and as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.