Dr. Peter Raven, one of the world’s leading botanists and advocates of conservation and biodiversity, recently spoke with leadership, staff, volunteers and advocates at Selby Gardens. This was Raven’s fourth such visit to Sarasota, having spoken at the formal dedication of the Gardens on April 3, 1976, and again upon the 10th and 25th anniversaries of the institution.
“Selby Gardens has more than lived up to the hopes and dreams we had for the place in 1973,” Raven said. “Anyone who supports this institution should feel very good.”
While here, Raven also reunited with two of the founders of Selby Gardens, Dr. Carl Luer and Dr. Cal Dodson, as well as today’s president and CEO, Jennifer O. Rominiecki.
Raven is president emeritus of Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the world’s leading botanic gardens, which he led for four decades. He also holds the post of chairman of the Center for Plant Conservation, a national environmental advocacy organization. Raven has been described by Time magazine as a “Hero for the Planet,” and is the recipient of numerous prizes and awards, including the prestigious International Prize for Biology from the government of Japan and the U.S. National Medal of Science, the country’s highest award for scientific accomplishment.
During his talk beneath the iconic banyan trees planted by Marie Selby nearly 80 years ago, Raven discussed the importance of the work conducted by botanical gardens, and how individuals can personally make changes to positively affect climate change.
“We depend on plants directly or indirectly for everything from food to medicine,” Raven said. “There are still a lot of discoveries to be made from plants.”
Citing expectations for worldwide population growth over the next 30 to 50 years, Raven detailed how human pressure on environments needs to change to continue to sustain life so that, in his view, our species can continue to enjoy the civilized pursuits we enjoy, such as gardens, arts, poetry, philosophy and religion.
“Nobody knows how many people the world can support on a sustainable basis,” Raven said.
He encouraged the audience to research the effects of population growth and opportunities for scientific endeavors that create a sustainable future, in particular the Global Footprint Network, which allows people to calculate their individual impact on the environment. Raven encouraged reducing the consumption of limited resources by recycling, driving less, growing trees and gardening. He thanked the audience for their commitment to the world’s future.
“Let’s use Marie Selby Botanical Gardens as an inspiration. A botanical garden can be a model of sustainability and strengthen people’s understanding of how close we actually are to the natural world,” Raven said. “It’s a place where people and plants come together where we can create a real understanding, inform the citizenry and bring them out to a place where they have time to think.”