I grew up in Pennsylvania on an uncommon road that ran between deep woods in the back of our modest ranch home, and wide-open fields across the street with a stream that turned into a waterfall surrounded by caves made of shale along a hillside. It was an amazing playground.
Like most kids who grew up in the 70s, (think “Stranger Things”) when I got home from school my mother’s direction was to go play outside. So in the spring, summer and fall, that’s what I did, either with neighborhood friends or my four older siblings, and sometimes with my black Labrador retriever named Lightning. We would roam the woods, sit by the waterfall, and play inside the caves. Among this landscape I learned simple lessons about nature and gathered treasures: how you could hasten erosion by kicking in the dirt above the stream (not recommended), that garter snakes could be found under rocks (not scary), and a mysterious skull, probably that of a possum or raccoon (I never knew for sure). But I loved the endless discovery of my childhood, and thinking back, I never wanted to lose that sense of wonder.
But as I grew into a teenager, I wanted to understand how the world worked. I became mystified by shopping malls and restaurants, and television advertising and products on shelves, banking and the stock market – how does all of this work I wondered? As the time for college grew near, I knew I wanted to study business and figure it all out. This desire led me to a BA in Marketing, an MBA, and 17 years in corporate marketing. And then I made a hard right turn in my career when I joined World Wildlife Fund (WWF) where I now head our communications and marketing team.
In my youth, I thought I was studying business to figure out how the world worked, but I was only learning how business works, a small subset of the world. What I have learned at WWF is that all business depends on nature, our lives depend on nature, and the future of humanity depends on nature. It’s a much bigger and more complex world than I ever imagined.
We know we need to do more than think of nature as an input into the value chain. I was lucky to grow up with such a direct connection to the natural world. But you don’t need memories like mine to appreciate everything nature provides. If we collectively want humanity to have bountiful oceans, clean freshwater, intact forests, and abundant species – all living under the umbrella of a stable climate – we need to harness the most powerful drive within us. We need to love. We need to love nature so much that we will do whatever it takes to ensure it thrives for future generations. Or we definitely risk losing it. And that is not an option.
And so at WWF we ask everyone to do one simple thing: Love it, or lose it.
This post is part of an Earth Week series, in which you will hear from business leaders how their personal connection to nature inspires the work they do to ensure a more sustainable future for people and the planet.