In March, 20 alumni of the American Express Leadership Academy network met up in Austin, Texas, and turned the annual South by Southwest creative gathering into a leadership development and network-building opportunity. This is the fourth post in this series.
"What's a conservation nerd doing at South by Southwest?" It's a question I asked myself many times earlier this month as I prepared to attend the hippest conference in the country.
Would I really rub elbows with the likes of Lena Dunham and Katie Couric? Would I hear some cool new music? Would I spend my time wandering aimlessly among the venues, feeling alone in a sea of people? (Spoiler alert: No, sadly; yes, thanks to the incredible Antique Naked Soul; and no, because I instead made dozens of new connections!)
As a first-time attendee of one of the world's most well-known festivals, I wasn't certain what to expect. Would a conservation nerd find kindred spirits at a gathering more known for its music and media events than its relevancy to land trusts?
Turns out, I shouldn't have worried. Attending SXSW, I was reminded just how central the role of conservation is to all corners of life — even the hip ones. There was a Cities Summit that reminded participants that conservation must play a part in solving our urban challenges. We also learned that design theory has something to teach land trusts — stay tuned for a 2019 webinar! New York City has a thriving surfing community whose members have been effective advocates against industries that would harm the land and water in the city. There is a school dedicated to instilling in students the ethics of environmental stewardship and the skills associated with careers on the water — oh, and the school is committed to planting a billion oysters over the next 20 years.
Too many people don't know what a land trust is or what one does.
My chief takeaway from a very hectic and inspiring event is that too many people don't know what a land trust is or what one does. If you didn't know before, no worries. Land trusts are private, nonprofit conservation organizations working to conserve the places people need and love. The Land Trust Alliance is currently the nation’s leading authority on all matters regarding land trusts, conservation easements and related policy. Encouragingly, though, I found that when my fellow festival-goers were enlightened, they were grateful and excited. Time and again, people told me I have the best job in the world because I help save the planet every day. And they wanted to know more.
There is a real hunger for information about what land trusts do. We're a feel-good story at a time when not much seems to be positive. So I'm already planning my way back to SXSW next year to share land conservation's story. Who's with me?
This blog is one of a five-part series of reflections from the #amexleads leadership meetup at this year's South by Southwest festival. We will update this post with each week's new blog.
Part 1: Building Leadership Ecosystems that Thrive by Blair Glencorse
Part 2: How I Didn't Meet Barry Jenkins - My Experience at SXSW by Kim Gube
Part 3: The “Reach Out” versus Networking: A Conversation with Molly Beck of Messy Bun by Julie Smith
Part 4: What's a Conservation Nerd Doing at #SXSW? by Mary Burke