Monday, June 3, 2013

Women in Conservation

Riverside Park tunnel. 11:30 AM. Photo: Jeffrey Hirsch.
Monday, June 3, 2013. Hot and humid weekend here in New York with some let-up, a slight cooling breeze, and storm clouds hovering by late afternoon yesterday. Close to the midnight hour the rains finally came with thunder and lightning and cooling temperatures.
11:30 PM, outside JH's window.
Saturday afternoon on East End. The father was wheeling his little boy in his "sportscar," however the kid was at the wheel and it was his route, hence the wall. Sweet to watch.
I've run so many photos of this view of East End, west and east, that I thought I'd show you what it looks like in the Spring time with some green. It was a very bright sunny and hot muggy day (Friday) and this is how the camera saw it.
Last Wednesday noontime, the National Audubon Society’s Women in Conservation celebrated the legacy of female leadership in conservation at its annual luncheon benefit at the Plaza.

They presented two life-long conservation champions with the Rachel Carson Award. The prestigious Audubon award, launched in 2004, recognizes visionary women whose dedication, talent, and energy have advanced environmental and conservation positive change locally and on a global scale.

The event was also a tribute to the heroic women of America’s past and present – from those who helped start Audubon a century ago, and those who have played a leading role in conservation ever since. 
Emerging from the Women in Conservation luncheon at the Plaza toward the Pulitzer Fountain, Fifth Avenue, the Sherry Netherland (on the left) and the Apple Cube directly ahead.
CBS anchor Anne Thompson opened the event and introduced historian Douglas Brinkley. The very prolific author is finishing up a book on Franklin Roosevelt (“Forrester in Chief: Franklin D. Roosevelt, the CCC and Wild America”). He told us how Rachel Carson worked in FDR’s Administration, and that it was there that she first wrote about the Sea (as part of her job), where she began made the kinds of discoveries that eventually led to her seminal study, “The Silent Spring.” (She also wrote “The Sea Around Us,” and “The Edge of the Sea.”) 

Allison Rockefeller who is the founding chair of the Rachel Carson Awards Council, presented Marian Heiskell with the Rachel Carson Award in thanks for her numerous accomplishments as a lifelong conservationist and leader in numerous public and philanthropic activities focused on making the neighborhoods of New York City green.
Marian Heiskell. Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam. Fernanda Kellogg.
Allison Rockefeller and Lynda Johnson Robb. Reverend Canon Sally Grover Bingham.
Bernadette Castro. Janette Sadik-Khan. Jane Alexander.
Mrs. Haskell was born a Sulzberger of the New York Times family, sister of the Times’ late publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, widow of Orvil Dryfoos, also a publisher of the Times, and widow of Andrew Heiskell, Chairman and CEO of Time, Inc., She herself is a former newspaper executive. She also epitomizes the word philanthropist in conduct, stature, attitude and an empathic world view.

They also presented a Special Memorial Tribute Award posthumously to Lady Bird Johnson, a lifelong protector of nature, who led the way for the passage of 1964’s Highway Beautification Act. The Award was accepted by her daughter, Lynda Johnson Robb.
Allison Rockefeller and David Yarnold.
Margie Ruddick. Dr. Beth Stevens. Laurie David.
Mrs. Johnson came to her role as First Lady at a catastrophic and tragic moment in the American history, when her husband, the Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, succeeded John F. Kennedy on his death by murder in Dallas. I mention this because her predecessor Jacqueline Kennedy had been, inarguably, the most popular and influential First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt.

The nation was stunned at the time by the death of the President, and time was required to recover from the shock. Little was known about new First Lady at that grievous moment, other than that the Johnsons’ family fortune was attributed to her business acumen (acquiring a radio and then a TV station in Austen).

In the public eye, compared to the movie-star glamorous Jackie Kennedy, Lady Bird was a somewhat dowdy-ish, middle-aged housewife, in the eyes of the American people.
Missy Falchi and Lynda Johnson Robb. Lynda Johnson Robb.
Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam. Fernanda Kellogg.
However, she altered that misperception markedly and rather quickly without calling attention to it. Her public image that soon developed was that of a “lady” in the most respectable sense -- naturally warm and gracious, brought up in the Southern tradition; a devoted mother and wife, and serious about using her position to contribute to the needs of the American community.

One of her greatest achievements in that role was the so-called “Beautification” of America’s highways. So great was the change realized in the project that anyone born after 1960 cannot imagine what those highways looked like before Lady Bird Johnson came to the rescue. She was not only conserving the land but also the public consciousness.
The luncheon with every seat filled.
The political motivation behind the program was undoubtedly tied to the new Johnson Presidency and its need to “match” the good works and projects of the  dynamic, young(er) Kennedys, and to keep a steady political course. Jackie Kennedy was admired for re-decorating the White House, focusing on the history of the “People’s House." She “beautified” it. Lady Bird Johnson made the nation conscious of their highways and roadways (and ultimately neighborhoods and communities). Flowers were planted, roadsides were cleaned and refurbished, trees were planted, and littering stopped. Still active more than a decade after she and her husband left the White House, in the early 1980s, she created the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas.

This past Wednesday, when Lynda Johnson Robb -- who was always known as Lynda Bird when her father was President and until she married Charles Robb -- approached the stage to accept the award on behalf of her mother, guests at her table waved miniature Texas flags, in honor of the late First Lady’s home state. She thanked the Council for “recognizing my mother’s dedication to the environment and for carrying on her legacy, by teaching people to care.”
Allison Rockefeller and Doug Brinkley.
Doug Brinkley and Gloria Reuben.
Marian Heiskell and Allison Rockefeller. Frances Beinecke.
After the acceptance speeches, David Yarnold, President of the National Audubon Society and Allison Rockefeller presented a special pin to many former Awards Council Honorees including Beth Stevens, Fernanda Kellogg, Sally Jewell, Janette Sadik-Khan, Liz Titus Putnam, Frances Beinecke, Sally Bingham, Laurie David, Margie Ruddick, Bernadette Castro, Margaret Wittenberg, Maria Rodale. Mrs. Rockefeller ended the ceremony with a nod to the award’s namesake saying, “Like Rachel Carson, we too hope to hear the song birds in the spring.”

The Mission of Women in Conservation is to “recognize outstanding women leaders in today's conservation movement; to support environmental opportunities for girls and young women; and to educate women on important issues related to conservation and the environment.”
Maria Cuomo Cole.
Anne Thompson and Jane Alexander.
It is a noble cause and intention but it is not enough. The environment that we live in is in a profound state of degradation. The planting and the beautifications have several highly laudable aspects as I’ve noted, not the least of which its effect on the air we breathe. But that and the WATER sources such as the rivers and the aquifers are dangerously polluted in many places, and running dry in many places as well. We are in Emergency Mode all over the planet.

Allison Rockefeller is an exceptional natural leader and public speaker on the subject, but they need to Bang The Drum More and Louder to drive home the message. Rachel Carson, if she were alive today (she died in 1964) would be deeply alarmed to see the state we are in, and even more alarmed by how casual the national attitude remains about the matter – which is a matter of survival.

There is still the ongoing argument between the “believers” and “non-believers” on issues of environment. Mother Earth could care less about what we “believe.” She is providing all the clear signs that threaten life on the planet with its speedily burgeoning population right now. We ignore these realities at our own peril. The women of Women In Conservation have an opportunity to make things happen. They need to do more and recruit more to do more. I know they can do it.
The past honorees lined up for their photo after receiving their pins.
Jill Krementz took a walk through Madison Square Park where she enjoyed Orly Genger's exciting sculptural installation. She also visited the great Farragut statue, a collaboration between Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Sanford White. "I fell head-over-heels in love with the work of Saint-Gaudens when I covered the exhibition of his work at the Met in 2009."
MADISON SQUARE PARK, Thursday, 3 p.m., photo by Jill Krementz.

Mad. Sq. Art 2013 presents "Red, Yellow Blue," a new monumental installation by New York Artist Orly Genger.

The installation envelops three lawns within Madison Square Park at 24th Street and Fifth Avenue.
The colorful structures, sprawled over 1.4 million feet and three lawns, are made of layered nautical rope covered in over 3,500 gallons of paint.

Ropes were once used by lobster fishermen and then painted by the artist. Grenger works with a team of mostly female assistants in her Brooklyn Studio.
Mad. Sq. Art is the free contemporary art program presented by the Madison Square Park Conservancy.
Orly Genger's sculptures are currently on exhibit at Larissa Goldstein Pop-up Gallery at 530 West 24th Street. Ms. Genger was profiled by Carol King in the Sunday New York Times on May 1st. The article was appropriately titled "The Rope Wrangler."
A passerby dressed in Missoni perfectly echos the red yellow and blue of the sculptures.
A recently launched Madison Square Park App can be accessed by clicking here.

You'll enjoy interviews with artist Orly Genger as well as with the Conservancy's President and exhibition curator, Debbie Landau.
You might want to wander over to the north end of the park to visit the famous Admiral Farragut statue.

Considered one of the finest outdoor monuments in New York City, its creation was a collaboration of two of the finest artistic spirits of their age, sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and architect Stanford White.

The Farragut Monument was dedicated in 1881 and was Saint-Gaudens' first public commission.
The Saint-Gaudens bronze statue depicts the resolute Admiral Farragut in full naval uniform, standing erect with binoculars in hand and sword at his side, as if engaged in commanding a fleet. His long coat is flung back by the wind.

The semi-circular granite base (right), designed with Stanford White, is in the form of a curved, high-backed bench, with streaming, sea-current-like forms running across the central pier.

Farragut was a lifelong sailor, a boy-veteran of the War of 1812 and a career naval officer. Even though he was a southerner (born in Tennessee) he fought for the Union during the Civil War.
A bronze crab engraved with the names of the artist and the architect.

Photographs by Amber De Vos, Patrick McMullan (Audubon)

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