From Awkwardness to Epiphany
By Maurice Carter, Sustainable Newton Marketing & Communications Director
In his Ecocentrity Blog, Ray C. Anderson Foundation Executive Director John Lanier recently shared video of a speech by his grandfather, Ray Anderson, to illuminate a piece about our planet's crisis of biodiversity loss. Like most recordings of Ray Anderson, this 2006 speech relating his 1997 "spear in the chest" moment after reading Paul Hawken's "The Ecology of Commerce" is profound. Everyone should watch the the entire seven minutes at the bottom of this page, but I found these words especially worthy of transcribing here. Ray said:
"I had agreed reluctantly -- and I underline 'reluctantly' -- to speak to a newly assembled environmental task force of Interface people from around the world. I had been asked to offer an environmental vision. And I did not have an environmental vision. I did not want to answer this awkward question -- awkward for me because I could not get beyond: 'We obey the law, comply.' And I knew somehow that comply was not a vision."
I'm struck by many things when I hear Ray Anderson speak.
I understood for the first time that I was a plunderer of the Earth, stealing my grandchildren's future. And that's not the legacy one wants to leave behind.
I suppose I am mystified by that men and women so lacking in character or integrity can rise to such positions of power. I am dumbfounded our society continues to tolerate such immorality and destructive behavior. We rationalize and normalize greed at our own peril.
But I also marvel that a man like Ray Anderson also lived and left the legacy he did -- a legacy that lives on in the Ray C. Anderson Foundation and all of the great work they make possible. I give thanks for a powerful man, in the prime of his business career, who owned his responsibility and ability to do better. To make the world better. To lead by example.
We can bemoan the sad state of leadership we witness daily, but we also need to believe there are more Ray Andersons out there. And that, in our own imperfect and perfectly human ways, we can each be a little more like Ray.
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