Beinecke, who has been at the forefront of many environmental fights over four decades, including as president of NRDC, says one thing you learn is that the battle is never easy. And it’s never really over.
“These issues continue,” Beinecke, who spent 40 years with NRDC, said recently. “Nothing is ever permanently settled in the environmental field. It’s always an ongoing challenge.”
This is one of the messages that Beinecke will bring back to F&ES this semester, where she will teach a seminar course as the 2015 Dorothy S. McCluskey Fellow in Conservation.
The McCluskey Fellowship allows conservation practitioners to spend a semester at the School to pursue independent research, to enhance collaborations between F&ES and environmental organizations, and to expand professional training opportunities for students. McCluskey ’73 M.F.S. endowed the fellowship in 1997. Beinecke is the 19th McCluskey Fellow.
During the seminar course (F&ES 810a, Diverse Voices: Environmental Leaders on Climate Change and the Environment
), Beinecke will examine how the environmental movement of the 21st
century can better reflect all segments of American society. Throughout the semester, she will introduce a diverse group of leaders tackling environmental challenges through advocacy, policymaking, academic research, and business.
“Although Frances has stepped back from her post as president of NRDC, she remains one of our nation’s most influential environmental leaders,” said F&ES Dean Peter Crane
. “Her presence at F&ES this semester will be of immeasurable benefit to our students, staff, and faculty, and will be a highlight of the upcoming academic year.”
Beinecke says she expects to get a lot out of the experience herself.
“I really look forward to hearing what students are thinking about, and what faculty are working on,” she said. “Because sometimes you can miss the big picture when you’re working in the trenches.”
ack in the early 1970s, when she was an undergraduate at Yale College, Frances Beinecke didn’t necessarily imagine that she’d ever find herself in the trenches of environmental movement. In fact, it was a field that was only starting to take shape.
It was a stormy time in American history, particularly on its college campuses, and Beinecke knew that she wanted to tackle an issue related to social justice. But it wasn’t until after graduation, when she spent several months in Africa, that she found her focus.
Traveling across east Africa, she was struck by the beauty, size and scope of the natural world, and by the immense challenge of providing the resources needed by a growing population. It reminded Beinecke, a New Jersey native, of the grandeur she’d observed during trips to the American West when she was younger, and the vast scale she experienced in the Adirondacks.
“I really became more and more interested in the environment,” she says. “And it just seemed to be a very positive direction for action. There were plenty of environmental challenges, but it was an area where I thought you could really get involved at the ground floor. And there were so much that needed to happen.”