The arrival of Spring 2021 brings with it a special sense of rebirth and reopening as we emerge from the incredible challenges we faced together in 2020. As the weather warms, the spring ephemerals emerge, the amphibians meet in cool pools, and bird migrations begin, we are also hopeful for the return to the places, people and events that confirm our sense of community and shared mission.
Over the past year, I have re-learned the value of health, access to clean air, clean water, local food, and to the outdoors, but also the importance of understanding how decisions are made in our communities—decisions that affect all of these important elements of life. This, I think, is the work of conservation and the work of the PEC.
This past Labor Day, I brought my family, including Arlo the 5-month old puppy, up to PEC’s Piedmont Memorial Overlook for a hike and a picnic. The view was great, with a cool breeze blowing, butterflies of many types in the wildflower meadow and even a full-sized copperhead sunning itself on the trail to get our hearts racing!
With so much going on around us that we cannot control, doing what we can to make our part of the world better becomes all the more important.
This past spring, our staff made a quick and orderly transition to remote work, operating off a solid platform of online resources, laptops, smartphones, and most importantly, a network of partners and relationships that allow us to be effective observers and active participants in our communities. Continuing full operations, with the support of PEC members and our Board, has provided a remarkable and deeply appreciated source of stability in an otherwise crazy world.
Rumor has it, the idea for Earth Day was first announced at the Airlie Conference Center in Fauquier County, spurring a national and international movement to make the environment a major focus. That was 1969, and today, 50 years later, much progress has been made on those initial concerns about air and water pollution, loss of wildlife and endangered species. But, as we are reminded daily, that progress has been offset by population growth and consumption around the world. Arguably, we are overwhelming the earth’s natural systems at a global scale.
Earlier this fall, my dad passed away peacefully at home with my mom by his side. As anyone who knows me is aware, I have always been proud of my dad. He was a deeply patriotic American who resigned from the Foreign Service to protest abuse of executive power during the Vietnam War. He led the staff effort in Congress to end funding for the bombing in Cambodia and was made staff director of the Select Committee to Investigate National Emergency Powers, which led to greater oversight of our intelligence agencies. Then he returned to diplomatic affairs, where he worked in U.S.-Soviet relations, served as Ambassador to Ukraine and as senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. His career was one of integrity and of speaking truth to power.
At this summer’s Sunset Safari event, The Piedmont Environmental Council, the Shenandoah National Park Trust, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute recognized The Volgenau Foundation for its leadership and philanthropy in land conservation and restoration of native habitats in Virginia and beyond since 1994.
As I sit in my office, I can see the maple trees budding and about to burst open with the excitement that comes with every springtime in the Piedmont region. And that is how I feel about all of the upcoming activities we have planned this spring to help create better, more sustainable communities throughout our region.