Delighted to see Greenhouse PR flagging my next book, Green Swans: The Coming Boom In Regenerative Capitalism, as one of their 2020 “must-reads” on climate solutions. Am sure there will also be critical media coverage once the book appears, but nice to start with a bit of a tail-wind. Greenhouse had picked me as one of their “New Green Radicals” last October, which was encouraging, too.
While in Florida with CXL, I stayed in the Los Piños building on the old White Oak Plantation. Many of the buildings were strongly reminiscent of my long-since-departed cousin Hollister Sprague’s home, Forestledge, overlooking Puget Sound – on the outskirts of Seattle.
Despite the glowing coverage of the current denizen in the linked article, I hear that he has been bulldozing much of the wild woodland on the property, with the result that landslips are becoming more common.
Particularly sad since Elaine and I shared such happy times with Hollister at Forestledge, and his family across the state, from Vashon Island to Yakima, back in 1973.
When I arrived back from the States this time, I re-read my copy of our great-great-grandmother Clara Witter’s diary of her family’s move west to the Rockies in the 1860s. She was the grandmother of our paternal grandmother, Isabel Griffin/Elkington/Coaker.
In the diary, she describes setting up a post office in the mountains, where the local miners would pay in gold dust. Every weekend she would pan the dirt floor, making a fair amount of money in the process. I was interested in digging back into the mining elements of the family story because one theme CXL has been pursuing is artisanal mining.
I asked my brother Gray for some background on the Griffin side of the family – Isabel having been one, via her father, Francis Griffin. Turns out that a number of members of that generation owned and operated gold and silver mines in the USA, mainly in the Rockies, which is presumably how Francis met Isabel’s mother-to-be, Hattie Witter.
Also turned out, according to a document called “The Griffin Mystery”, that one of the Griffin brothers, Clifford, committed suicide at the 7:30 Mine near Silver Plume – giving rise to endless theories, rumours and ghost stories. False facts have deep roots.
Gray attached a long document giving the true story, which I must find a way to post here at some point. It’s genuinely fascinating – and references tailing dam failures that ended up wiping out part of the nearest settlement.
Somewhat relevant since, while I was in Florida, I received a request from a major mining company which recently had a terrible tailings dam disaster, asking me to write a contribution for their latest sustainability report. I set such a high bar that they withdrew the offer.
But at some level we are all complicit in these tragedies and catastrophes.
I have been at work this week on reversing retention. Flew American Airlines to Miami on Sunday, 23 February, then north to Jacksonville. Picked up at Jacksonville airport and shuttled across to the White Oak Conservation Center for my first board meeting with Conservation X Labs (CXL).
Great to see CXL co-founders Paul Bunje and Alex Dahgan – and to meet the rest of the team. Very much liked the other board members.
During the visit, which saw more or less endless rain, I went on two tours of the 17,000-acre conservation center, with the absolute highlight for me being the cassowaries, billed as the world’s most dangerous bird. About as close to velociraptors as I hope I am ever likely to see. The male and female have to be kept apart – and when the female performed a running, thumping aggression dance along her side of the fence it was fairly obvious why.
Am genuinely thrilled to be part of the CXL team – and was able to stay on for a further day and a half after the board meeting, to take part in the full team retreat. Hugely impressed by what I heard about the various programs designed to help “reverse extinction.
On the flights back, I read an initial 160 pages of CXL CEO Alex Deghan’s extraordinary book, The Snow Leopard Project And Other Adventures In Warzone Conservation. The story of the unbelievably challenging task of setting up Afghanistan’s first national park. Beyond inspiring.
Beautiful. That was my overwhelming – and surprised – reaction to Sam Mendes’s outstanding film 1917, which Elaine and I went to the see this evening at the Waterloo IMAX.
I was blown away, whereas Elaine spent perhaps two thirds of the showing with her hands over her eyes – and all of it with ear-plugs stuffed into her ears.
One reason I wanted to see the film was that I am named after Lieutenant-Colonel John Elkington, whose story was told by John Hutton in August 1914: Surrender at St Quentin. I talked to Hutton back in 2008 while he was researching his book.
My favourite Kew Gardens greenhouse is the Princess of Wales Conservatory – where in 1985 Sir David Attenborough buried the time capsule originally thought up by Elaine during a dinner in Barnes with Gaia Books co-founders Joss and David Pearson.
The time capsule contained seeds of extinction-prone plants and a copy of The Gaia Atlas of Planet Management, which I had helped Joss and Norman Myers bring to life.
Our daughters, Gaia and Hania – then aged 6 and 8 – sat on Sir David’s knees, all three wearing hard hats, as he prepared to lower the time capsule into the newly-built Conservatory’s floor.
Yesterday, Gaia, Elaine and I went to see this year’s Orchid Festival – and walked around the time capsule plaque, while I pondered that each and every orchid on display was a time capsule in its own right. Shaped by its evolutionary history in ways that emergent sciences like epigenetics are only just beginning to probe and understand.