January 20, 2017, a date that will go down in… you decide!

As I write, there is a soon-to-be-inaugurated, new President leaving Blair House and traveling to St John’s Church for a morning church service. The service is closed to the press and public, but we know the sermon is being given by Robert Jeffress, the lightening-rod pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas. The focus of the sermon is Nehemiah, and his task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in the 5th century BC. The title of the sermon… “When God chooses a leader.” Let that one sink in for a bit.

When it comes to leadership, there are several different angles this can take. When it comes to leadership in the environmental context, the optics of nature can focus this to a pinpoint definition. Simply put, true environmental leaders will, above all, be judged on how their actions will impact the biodiversity of a place.

Aldo Leopold, the sage author of “The Sand County Almanac,” put it pretty succinctly. “A thing is right when it preserves the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends to do otherwise.” Words that a leader, or those of us who attempt to influence leaders, should keep in mind. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to hear leaders, who will soon be in charge of our National Parks and environmental regulations, quote Leopold? Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be taking place at Senate confirmation hearings.

So what is someone to do if they aspire to see Leopold’s ideals upheld as a simple metric to measure our success or failure when it comes to how we influence the environment? It’s simple really. Hold our leaders accountable. They cannot lead if they don’t have followers. Those we elect to lead are ultimately accountable to those who put them in leadership positions.

If you are feeling a fair bit of despair concerning the future of the planet under this new set of leaders, hold their feet to the fire they have created. Educate yourself by becoming involved in nationally recognized environmental organizations. The Peoria Audubon Society, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club and many others hold monthly meetings open to the public. They are not political action meetings. Rather, they inform members of important local and national environmental issues. More importantly, they educate people on how they can be change agents to make sure the “right thing” is heard by our leaders. Make a resolution to become involved.

A key trait of a good leader is the ability to listen. Ironically, even poor leaders know this deep down. What will make someone go down in history as a poor or ineffective leader is his inability to grasp that idea. Don’t give them a free ride by being silent. It’s time to be engaged. It’s the “right thing” to do and our planet depends on it!

Mike Miller



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