Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Harrison Ford open up a powerful conversation about natural resources and sustainability at the annual Conservation International Gala. Ford is the Conservation International (CI) Vice Chairman, an organization whose mission is to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the well-being of people. The New York City event with nearly 450 guests raised more than $1.6 million dollars.
Secretary Clinton and Ford took the stage where they spoke passionately about a range of urgent environmental challenges. They also raised the issue of security threats in vulnerable regions from sub Saharan Africa, to the Greater Mekong region of Southeast Asia, to the low-lying atoll nations of the Central and South Pacific. Threats an challenges have risen due to resource scarcities, illegal wildlife trade and global climate change.
Ford told a story about a dinner he had with Secretary Clinton and CI co-founder, CEO and Chairman Peter Seligmann several years earlier. Ford recounted about when he learned conservation failures abroad could become national security issues for the United States and other countries. “We have reached a point in our human history where nature may be unable to support the weight and the appetites of the planet’s human population. We’ve weakened the natural world’s capacity to provide us with fresh water, natural pollinators for our crops, food, botanical sources of future medicines.”
They also discussed emerging tensions resulting from the polar ice cap melt and the issue of illegal wildlife trade.
“The Arctic, I think, is one of the most important conservation issues facing the world today,” said Clinton. “Organizations like CI and others need to be knocking on the doors of governments and making it clear that it is in all of our enlightened self interest to come up with a plan for the protection, the preservation and use of the Arctic in as environmentally sustainable and responsible way as possible.”
“We have a crisis. We have a wildlife, poaching, trafficking, murdering crisis,” she warned, emphasizing the plight of African elephants, mass murdered for their ivory in an international trade that often arms militant groups and funds organized crime. “It is not only criminal enterprises but is carried out by highly armed vicious bands who sometimes arrive in helicopters with night- vision goggles and their assault weapons,” said Clinton.
Conservation International also paid tribute to former board member Julio Mario Santo Domingo with a posthumous award as Global Conservation Hero. Mr. Santo Domingo, helped raise awareness about the importance of healthy ecosystems in Latin American economies, biodiversity and people.
“He has influenced our board, influenced our organization and impacted everybody in our institution. He was one of the most extraordinary men that I ever encountered; a citizen of the world,” said Silegmann.
“All told, with the inspiration of Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Colombia has protected with CI, ten million hectares on land and at sea, which is equal to an area four times the state of New Jersey. We are honored to recognize Don Julio Mario Santo Domingo for his vision that his native land could be a beacon on the hill for sustainability and the commitment he made to making that vision a reality.”
Julio Mario Santo Domingo’s sons, Andres and Alejandro accepted the award on behalf of their father.
“The most important lesson my father gave me is by his example: Be kind to people, be kind to everything,” said Andres Santo Domingo, dinner chairman.
Andres Santo Domingo and his wife, Lauren also help organize fundraisers for Conservation International.