In October, Richard, Meave and Louise Leakey spent time making public appearances, lecturing, and visiting with old friends and new across the United States.
Richard Leakey speaks at the Greenwich Public Library in Greenwich, CT.
From Stony Brook University, their US base and the academic home of the Turkana Basin Institute, they made several local appearances and gave a rare joint interview to the New York Times (we’ll send out the article once published).
On October 15th, Meave spoke at the first ever TEDx Midwest event in Chicago. TEDx Midwest is part of a series of independently organized, locally based conferences featuring thought-provoking artists, political leaders, inventors and other accomplished individuals. Meave’s talk, entitled “Six Million Years to Evolve the Deadliest Species on Earth” offered fresh insight into both the wonderful and the less desirable accomplishments of Homo sapiens. Meave conveyed a message of optimism tempered with a healthy dose of reality. She encouraged the crowd to start thinking as a species in an effort to make the best choices for ourselves, the planet and its other inhabitants.
On October 26, Richard gave a riveting talk about a life spent fossil-hunting at Lake Turkana to about 250 patrons of Greenwich Public Library, in Greenwich, CT. He told stories of growing up in Kenya with his famous fossil-hunter parents, and about how convinced he was that he would not follow in their footsteps. Richard also discussed in great detail the pressing and all encompassing issue of climate change along with his belief that we are currently in the midst of the sixth great extinction the earth has experienced (the dinosaurs’ extinction 65 million years ago was the fifth). To learn more pick up a copy of Richard’s book The Sixth Extinction, available online at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com. With one distinct species going extinct roughly every 20 minutes for reasons such as pollution, over harvesting of species (think blue fin tuna), and habitat destruction, Richard told the audience that along with many prominent biologists, he finds little room for doubt that humans are the cause of this current wave of extinctions.
Louise divided her stay evenly between the East and West coasts. While in New York, she met with honors students and gave a lecture to a capacity crowd at Stony Brook University entitled, “A Search for Human Origins at Lake Turkana, Kenya”. This well-received account of her life and work in Kenya provided a preview of her talk at the Foothill College Celebrity Forum Speaker Series in Los Altos Hills, CA. Louise’s participation in this series was unique in that she spoke three nights in a row to a sold out crowd of 2500 people despite being in direct competition with the San Francisco Giants playing in (and ultimately winning) their first ever World Series. But perhaps even more special than that was the fact that Louise represented the third generation of Leakeys who spoke at the Forum. Her father and grandfather both also participated—Richard spoke three times: in 1985, 1990 and 1994, and Louis spoke at the first ever Celebrity Forum in 1968. The series’ founder and organizer Dick Henning joked that, once you start welcoming the grandchildren of past speakers, it’s probably time to retire!
This thought is humbling and it helps to put the Leakeys and their many, many accomplishments in wonderful and clear context. Whether they are working in the field to help uncover the clues to our shared human origins, lecturing about the dangers we as a species pose to the very world we live in, or speaking one on one with bright young anthropology students who someday may join them in the field, the Leakeys tirelessly work to impact the world around them in a determined and meaningful way.