On May 1 I was elected by my fellow board members to be the next chairperson of the Academy of Natural Science of Drexel University, effective July 1. I am humbled and honored by this call, and I am energized by the challenge given to all of us to be “A force for nature.”
Ironically, May 1 also marks my six years as the head coach at Episcopal Community Services.
I have two passions as I go about my final professional chapter after more than 40 years in the for-profit world.
The first deals with the issues of intergenerational poverty in the city of Philadelphia, where I have the privilege of being the executive director and head coach of Episcopal Community Services. The focus of our agency is asking our stakeholders to look up and to challenge poverty with courage, capacity and will.
My second passion is our environment. I have been an outdoorsman my entire life and can see with my own eyes the impact of climate change. The data and the science is clear.
Ice fields around the world are receding, ocean temperatures are rising, carbon dioxide levels are climbing, our weather grows more extreme, and sea level rise is very much an issue around the world. Add to that the issues of air and water pollution and the associated health and environmental issues, and you can see we clearly face a growing and complex set of challenges.
My two passions have much in common.
First, the data is clear. Poverty in America is growing and the issues of economic mobility and the lack of access to opportunity for many of our citizens is undeniable. Climate change is occurring, its impacts are profound, and the scientific fact-based data of the state of our natural world is also undeniable.
Second, the way home with both issues starts with education and awareness of the issues for society at large.
Third, the need for civil, researched and fact-based debate and problem-solving in order to craft informed and effective public policy is clear. We can ill afford for either of these issues to become partisan. The social and economic algebra is compelling: It impacts all of us and doing nothing is unacceptable on a local, national and global scale.
Sadly, looking at the data in both areas, we may have crossed tipping points. Even if that is so, do we want our legacy to be that we saw the evidence but were so arrogant that we failed to respond meaningfully? That greed took precedence over great-grandchildren?
I hope our work as citizens of Philadelphia and the world is that we look to our better nature and respond to the call to service. That we understand that our self-interest starts with neighbors, both local and global.
I ask you to join us in this work: To be a force for nature and to look up and challenge poverty. To do both with Courage, Capacity and Will.
I want our grandchildren to know that we took a stand, and we acted on the critical issues of our time.
By David E. Griffith, Chairperson-elect of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University