At this distance of time, I genuinely can’t recall when I first met Ernst Ligteringen—it could have been this century or the last, in any one of a dozen countries. While trying to find out, I stumbled across this photograph taken during a GRI event in Amsterdam in 2010, but even then I felt I had known Ernst forever.
He was always there, friendly, calm, with a benign sense of humour and uniformly well dressed, quietly holding the centre of the conversation in the interests of the wider world and of the future.
I shared with Ernst a sense that our embrace of the sustainability cause and agenda often came at a cost—to ourselves but, much more importantly, to others. Time that could—should—have been devoted to family and friends was invested in bettering the life chances of others, sometimes geographically remote and sometimes remote in time, including the not-yet-born.
Who really knows where that calling comes from—or what sustains it through the highs and lows of a life spent trying to change the world for the better? But without the loving support of his family it would not have been possible, let alone sustainable.
Like a torch held to others, Ernst sparked deeper awareness and commitment in people from every sector and every corner of the globe. As our mutual friend Bob Massie recalls it, he was a man “who could speak many different languages, both culturally and linguistically, and a leader who could handle a thousand details and relationships without ever losing sight of our long-term goals.”
To say I will miss him is both trite and true. But I am sure I speak for a multitude in saying that something of Ernst—variously son, husband, father, friend and global phenomenon—will burn on in memory and in love.