Historically, the new year is approached with optimism for the future, a nostalgic look to the past, and a mindful reflection on the present. These three key elements are necessary to devise a healthy formula for opportunity and growth. When addressing environmental sustainability, whether it be referring to the longevity of an organization or its impact upon the community, the same three tenets can easily be applied. What are our accomplishments? What are we doing to ensure we continue this trajectory of success, and what are our obtainable goals for the future?
When reflecting on S. Dillon Ripley, and his legacy, it is glaringly apparent that the man had a vision that encompassed not just his penchant for waterfowl, but a holistic view of the environment and an execution of sustainable practice that was well ahead of its time. The fledgling stages of what would eventually become the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy were the product of a young man’s deep fascination and passion for the natural world and all its inhabitants. At the age of 17, Dillon Ripley built his first duck pond in Litchfield, Connecticut. Several decades later, he would champion the effort to rescue the native Nene (Hawaiian) goose, becoming one of the first to propagate the Nene in captivity in North America. He is credited for assisting with the population rebound, after sending a small flock of geese back to the Hawaiian Islands for reintroduction into the wild. Today, LRWC pays homage to Dillon Ripley and his conservation accomplishments by maintaining a small flock of Nene at The Conservancy.
Dillon Ripley’s contributions extend well beyond Litchfield. During his tenure as secretary of the Smithsonian from 1964-1984, he transformed the museum into a more inspirational and less “stodgy” destination with the addition of several eyebrow raising attractions. In 1967, he had a 1920's carousel installed on the National Mall, much to the chagrin of many of Washington’s elite. Upon its installation, people flocked to the merry-go-round, paying twenty-five cents a ride. In the same year, he commissioned several men to produce the first Folklife Festival; an incredibly successful effort that brought our waning folk traditions from stale gallery displays to vibrant, living history. The New York Times described the endeavor best when it reported the mission was, “to let fresh air into our Nation’s attic”. Through Ripley’s 20+ years of influence, the Smithsonian Institute became an “Every Man’s” destination, with a growth of exhibits that a broad, diverse audience could identify with.
Today, at LWRC, S. Dillon Ripley’s responsibility to the local (and global) environmental community is still ever present. As illustrated during his lifetime, there is not just one permanent recipe that broadens interest and awareness; there are multitudes! From local, hands-on educational offerings that cover crucial topics such as water health and threatened species, to award winning distance learning courses that bring the conservancy into the international classroom. How about yoga with geese and cranes? Absolutely! A night prowl to listen for owls? Whoooo else? LRWC is upholding the vision and perception of their founder by continually expanding and innovating in an effort to draw in and engage supporters on as many levels as possible. By regularly building the latest “carousel” and waiting to see who climbs aboard, LRWC will uphold its mission and ensure a thoughtful and comprehensive evolution of sustainable conservation and stewardship. Happy New Year!!