Some time ago an NGO chief told me ‘no-one is irreplaceable’. We were discussing the resignation of a key staff member. I disagree. People are unique, and nature and nurture can combine to create individuals with remarkable skills – be it oratory, technical ability or inspiring leadership.
Sadly I’ve had a stark reminder of this over the last few weeks with the tragic deaths of two uniquely talented activists.
First there was the accidental drowning of Becky Tarbotton, the CEO of the Rainforest Action Network, whom Bill McKibben described as a ‘hero among heros’. Her most recent coup – after 18 months of tortuous negotiation – was to get Disney to agree to stop using paper sourced from endangered forests and conflict zones. It’s worth taking time out to watch Becky tell her inspirational story of how her team achieved this monumental change.
Then there was the heartbreaking suicide of prodigiously talented digital activist Aaron Swartz, who in the words of New Internationalist writer Mari Marcel Thekaekara, was ‘hounded to an early death by the cruel, unfair world we live in’.
It’s a timely reminder that we should all cherish, support, encourage and nurture the people and organisations that do so much in the battle for social justice and our precious planet.