Blue Whale Hovers Over Green Gala

by Wendy Sy Photographed by Silk Studio
Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“Ready to save the rainforest?” asked the doorman as guests entered the American Museum of Natural History last Wednesday night. Inside, we gathered around the giant, long-tailed Barosaurus skeleton in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda for Rainforest Alliance’s 30th anniversary gala.

The organization’s mission is to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. During the cocktail reception, a silent auction with held with a range of unique items and experiences up for bid, including a Lilly Pulitzer and Society Social bar cart, a 4-nights stay at Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico, a Teadora Amazonian beauty package and an African Elephant watercolor painting by artist April Gornik.

The community leadership award was presented to Felisa Navas Pérez, a three-term president of Asociación Forestal Integral Cruce a La Colorada (AFICC), a forestry concession in the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in the Petén region of Guatemala. Pérez started at the association as the treasurer, then served as the secretary of the board of directors before assuming her current post. Under her leadership, she has helped AFICC face a number of challenges, such as overcoming debt.

In translation from Spanish to English, Pérez says, “We are happy to be recognized for the hard work within the constructions of the reserve. Over the past year, we have been raising awareness on environmental laws and working with young people in local schools to teach the importance of natural resources.” As for the future of Guatemala, she says, “One factor that I would like to see is an expansion on tourism. There’s a lot of potential for growth.”

Also recognized were notable individuals and companies who were named Corporate Sustainable Champions, People and Planet Champions and Sustainable Development Champions. 

Among supporters in attendance was climate activist, Rainforest Alliance ambassador and model Cameron Russell. Last year, she traveled to Sri Lanka with filmmaker Damani Baker to learn about how the Rainforest Alliance works with farmers to defend the forest. Reflecting on the trip, Russell says, “The moment of actually seeing the work on the ground, the depth of commitment, curiosity and passion that goes into the solution of deforestation and changing agriculture practices in the rainforest was incredible.”

Russell later shared an Instagram snapshot of her on the green carpet with Baker. “In times like these, when we meet leaders who are optimistic because they are doing the work, when we connect with organizations like Rainforest Alliance who care about humanity…I think we lean in,” she writes in the photo caption. “Rather then wake up to horrific news and feel helpless, we lean into these moments, lean into building community with the people who sat next to us, write down the names of the leaders we heard from and follow up. This will change the world, shifting our consciousness, taking chances, going the extra mile when it’s least expected.”

The evening followed with a formal dinner under the museum’s 94-foot-long blue whale model in the Irma and Paul Milstein Family Hall of Ocean Life. The gala was sponsored by paper distributor Domtar and co-chaired by Maggie LearTessie NedelmanLaura Ross, and Cathy Taub.


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