Written by Kate Janeway, Board of Trustees Member, Leadership and Transition Coach
Editor’s note: Kate Janeway is a long-time friend of The Nature Conservancy and joined the board for the Washington chapter earlier this year. We asked her to share a little about her passion for nature and people
Working on environmental issues became my mission when I was 13. That year, my hometown - Santa Barbara, California - experienced the first catastrophic oil spill in the US. It was caused by the blow-out of an oil rig positioned off the coast in an area riddled by geologic faults. Platform A is still leaking nearly 50 years later.
For me the spill was a galvanizing event. I joined Junior Statesmen of America - a YMCA program - and we organized to Get Oil Out of the coastal waters of California. The movement was a furious uprising of the entire community incited by the corporate cynicism of Union Oil - whose solution was to cover the oil with a layer of sand - and the ineffectiveness of government to address the problem because there were almost NO environmental laws at that time.
The Santa Barbara oil spill was a major force for the first federal environmental laws: the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act and the numerous land, and eventually species, protection efforts that followed.
So to me, the path that seemed clear, if I wanted to make a difference, was to become a lawyer.
Early in my law practice I saw that what the law does best is: assign blame and assess damages. This is important work, but not the work that motivated me.
To redefine myself, I got a degree in environmental policy and natural resource management from the Evans School.
Shortly after I finished I landed my dream job - as Assistant Director of the Washington and Alaska Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
I was employee #10 at TNC in 1984. I was hired because we were about to launch our largest campaign ever -- to preserve Washington Wetlands. This four-year campaign set out to raise a staggering $4 million – a goal we achieved in two years. In the process, we nearly doubled our membership and significantly raised our visibility and garnered the support that resulted in the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. A well-run campaign has impacts that continue to feed your work far into the future.
In 1988 my husband and I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for his job. I quickly found my small tribe of environmentalists and joined the Ohio Board of The Nature Conservancy. When we made our way back to Seattle 5 years, later I joined the board of the Alaska Chapter of TNC.
The focus at TNC has expanded – in my time - from protecting land-based jewels of all sizes, like peregrine nests and endangered orchids, to landscape-scale projects - which arose out of the realization that mega fauna migrate, and they can't survive in small islands of habitat.
While I was on the Alaska Board we pushed TNC’s national office to take on marine issues - as nature is Alaska is largely marine dependent. Today the ocean is a critical part of TNC’s strategy in Washington and around the world.
I came back to the Washington chapter when Mike Stevens joined as the new state director. I was pleased and surprised by the aggressive evolution of The Conservancy which had led to TNC’s clear commitment to address marine environments, challenges to sustainability in our growing cities, and the ultimate trump card - global climate change.
I joined the Board last December so I am a relatively new board member, but my history with TNC is a long one.
Because I feel that our work is important and urgent, I have jumped in with both feet.
My husband and I are co-chairing Washington's campaign along with two other couples: Scott and Jenny Wyatt and Steve and Heather Singh. Together we will have an impact on our state and world that goes far beyond the span of the five year campaign.