When Conservation International (CI) was founded 30 years ago this week, the conservation of nature was viewed by many countries, corporations and citizens around the world as an impediment to economic development.
In the decades since, from the realms of international policy to on-the-ground science, CI and partners have worked to move the needle toward a more accurate perception of nature: as the foundation of our economies and survival. In the words of Peter Seligmann, CI’s co-founder, chairman and CEO, “Our connection to our natural world is more than sentimental. Humanity depends on fresh water, reliable food and a stable climate. For that, we need intact forests, productive fisheries and healthy ecosystems.”
As we look ahead to the future, these photos document some of the places we’ve been.
Russ Mittermeier poses with a monkey for a Gap ad circa 1989. The primatologist served as Conservation International’s president from 1989 until 2014; he currently serves as the organization’s executive vice chair.
Wildlife biologist David Emmett trains two CI Cambodia employees and a government ranger in GPS, compass and map use during a survey of the Central Cardamoms Mountains. Emmett is now senior vice president of CI's Asia-Pacific field division.
CI staff and supporters on a trip to Botswana in 2005. Among those pictured: Peter Seligmann, Jeff Gale, Jane Gale, Cedric Rhodes, Rod Mast and Mike Chase.
CI co-founder, Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann meets a snake at a 1994 CI board meeting in Bahia, Brazil.
Woman inspects coffee growing in Chiapas, Mexico in 2000. For more than 15 years, CI has been working with Starbucks to reduce the negative impacts of coffee production on the environment and improve the lives of those who grow it.
Entomologist Chris Marshall and assistants collect moths from the fur of a three-toed sloth on a 2006 Rapid Assessment Program expedition in Guyana’s Konashen Community-Owned Conservation Area.
Russ Mittermeier explores forests near Manaus, Brazil in the late 1980s. While president of CI, Mittermeier was the only active field biologist to head a major international conservation organization.
Stan Malone, former director of CI Suriname, and Lisa Famolare, currently CI’s vice president of Amazonia, participate in a clean-up event in Georgetown, Guyana in 1995.
Russ Mittermeier shares a poster about primates with Trio children in southern Suriname in 2001. CI works with indigenous communities like this one to protect forests and other ecosystems that are integral to their survival.
Peter Seligmann and renowned oceanographer Sylvia Earle in the Cook Islands. CI is working with Pacific Island governments and partners to expand a network of protected areas that will protect the region's most crucial resources.
Molly Bergen is the senior managing editor of Conservation International.