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Inside NRDC
Photo of Frances Beinecke
THE VIEW FROM NRDC

New Leadership for a New Era

Katrina and her sisters highlight the urgency of today's challenges.

This column marks a noteworthy moment in the history of NRDC. John Adams, who has led this organization since its founding in 1970, will become NRDC's founding director in January. The board of trustees has asked me to assume the responsibility of leading NRDC and developing our responses to the planet's pressing environmental challenges.

John's unique combination of vision, unwavering passion, pragmatism, and determination has inspired all of us at NRDC to do the best we can to fulfill our mission to safeguard the earth. I've worked side by side with John for more than 20 years, including the last 10 as executive director. He is a personal hero of mine, and I look forward to carrying into the future the organization that he has done so much to create.

I take the helm at a particularly critical moment in environmental history. Hurricane Katrina, fresh in our minds, was a human tragedy marked by lives lost, communities dispersed, and families torn asunder. But it was also an environmental disaster of unparalleled magnitude; its lessons are vital not only to the future of the Gulf region, but also to the future of our country. Katrina and her powerful sisters, Rita and Wilma, pointed out the vulnerability of our energy infrastructure -- particularly the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the refineries that line the coast -- and made clear our need for energy that is safe, innovative, and homegrown. Lobbyists for big oil and their allies in Congress are instead scrambling to take advantage of these recent disasters to undo decades of environmental protections; if they succeed, we will make the same mistakes all over again. We can't let them.

Katrina also reminded us that we must restore coastal wetlands and barrier islands, which naturally buffer punishing storms. The ferocity of recent hurricanes vividly demonstrates the threat posed by global warming: Scientists know that storms will grow more intense as the oceans warm. We need mayors, governors, CEOs, religious leaders, sportsmen, and students to join together to get our nation on a sensible energy path.

NRDC's mission has always been to advance solutions. Even as we tackle today's emergencies, we must work even harder on long-term challenges: curbing global warming, replenishing the oceans, safeguarding our air and water. As I prepared to assume the role of president, those of us working on the transition thought deeply about how NRDC can best accomplish these tasks. We resolved to find new ways to communicate our concerns to the public; to increase our membership; to harness the influence of markets to forge environmental solutions; and to intensify our efforts in cities and states around the nation, as well as internationally.

I will draw on the support and dedication of our members and the trust you have placed in me to continue the great work of John Adams, whose vision will continue to guide us as we rededicate ourselves to preserving public health and our natural heritage.

Frances Beinecke
President


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Photo: Erin Patrice O'Brien

OnEarth. Winter 2006
Copyright 2005 by the Natural Resources Defense Council