When I was a kid growing up in Alabama, the outdoors to most meant hunting, golf, barbecues, and Crimson Tide football games with your dad. All endeavors of worthy merit, I suppose.
But it didn’t mean watching birds. Or hiking the South’s pine-oak forests. Or distance running. Or climbing. Or road-hunting at night for reptiles and possums.
Yep, possums. Live ones like the one I rescued from a red-dirt southern country road and that became a pet for many years with its beady eyes, prehensile tail, spiky fur and smile only a mama could love.
And it sure didn’t mean traveling the world, to save the world, going to more than 90 countries and counting, in the pursuit of a planet whose wild places are protected and where people live in harmony with nature.
Yep, it’s a long way from my childhood in ‘Bama. But today that same love of family and love of wildlife, and love of the outdoors defines me, despite that my home now and for always is Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and my heaven on Earth is Jackson.
Today my view of a good day is making pancakes for my 2 daughters, Annika and Adelaide, or getting 5 minutes to hold hands with my wife, Antigone, who is as passionate about women’s health as I am about wildlife. A good day includes a long run or earning some tele-turns. And a good day is one when I make progress supporting the world’s most entrepreneurial conservationists, together saving elephants, cheetahs, lions, saiga antelope, snow leopards, and wild dogs, making sure these critters have the freedom to roam so my kids and their kids can enjoy them for a long time to come.
It’s ironic that my love the of the outdoors and its wild finned and furred denizens forces me to spend a pretty big chunk of my life inside in meeting rooms or in a metal tube hurling through the air at 36,000 feet. But it’s a small price to pay if it means wildlife can survive – and even thrive – in the world my kids live in.
Today I work for the Wildlife Conservation Network where I lead a network of the most innovative field conservationists who live with and save wildlife around the world, and respond in innovative ways to wildlife crises through strategies like the Elephant Crisis Fund. I do though get out in the field to the world’s most diverse and wild and important places – the heart and soul of our planet. My runs are now often clandestine escapes before a breakfast meeting to seek out the only dirt trail in a city or to run along its waters. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to stretch the legs with a Samburu warrior in the rocky, acacia-dotted Samburu landscape of Kenya, where we’re helping elephants and lions to coexist with humans. But sometimes I’m even luckier and find myself at home on my urban trails in Denver with my daughters biking alongside. Those are perhaps the greatest adventures of them all, and they remind me why I work 24/7 with a burning passion to make the planet a better place.