Jerome Ringo, a veteran outdoorsman who spent decades fighting to preserve the nation’s parks, wildlife, and other natural resources, was elected board chairman of the 4.5 million member National Wildlife Federation. The organization’s goals include seeking solutions to global warming, strengthening the Endangered Species Act, and working to limit oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ringo, 50, is the first African American to lead a major conservation organization.
BLACK ENTERPRISE: What is the significance of your election?
Ringo: To involve a community that has not historically been involved.
BE: Why should African Americans focus more on conservation?
Ringo: African Americans are disproportionately impacted by industrial facilities that have been located in our communities for years. Two out of three African Americans live within the same zip code of a landfill. We drink the water and breathe the air, so we should be involved in the process to sustain people and wildlife. We should be involved in resolving critical issues like global warming, coastal erosion, acid rain, and habitat destruction because of urban sprawl.
BE: What is your top priority as chairman?
Ringo: One of the biggest issues we are facing today is drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge to satisfy America’s glutinous appetite for energy. The answer will not be found on the slopes of Alaska but in the factories of Detroit. We must entertain more innovative solutions in resolving our energy demands.
BE: How will you bring more African Americans into this movement?
Ringo: I plan to do it by being an ambassador for the federation. I believe that the conservationist movement over the next several decades will not be successful unless a true diverse coalition is established.