Mention the word summit nowadays and most people will probably envision a meeting involving suits, cigars, old men (and a few women), lots of talk, copious amounts of hard alcohol, and piles of taxpayer money. And all for naught.
But there’s a different definition for summit, one that evokes images of impossibly high peaks rising black and vertical above the snowbound shoulders of mountains. This is the image I want you to see when I tell you that I went to the ECOSummit this weekend. It was a meeting, and it did have men and women present, but the similarities between this summit and the aforementioned cease there.
Because this meeting was about climbing mountains. Many of the speakers (and many of the audience, too) had experience facing the mountain. They had made attempts at the lofty goal, impossibly high. They had bruised themselves on it’s unyielding stones. They had become disoriented in the thin air and the heavy fog that swept in with no warning. They had been caught in sudden, sodden rainstorms, driven by icy winds that winnowed the cold into their bones and forced them back down to the shoulders of the mountain, their own shoulders slumped under the weight of defeat. And yet, once they had recovered, back up the mountain they trudged again. Ever hopeful; ever passionate; ever willing.
Others were on their first ascent, their packs and their smiles bright, their eyes wide open and expectant. They are beginning from the trailhead at the base of the hills, up the gentle path into the broad shoulders of the mountains. Through the glades of deep green grasses and yellow flowers. They move with vigor and the expectation of success. With clear eyes they regard the peak, high but possible. They also carry new gear and new knowledge. Perhaps the ascent will be easier for them. If so, it will be in part because they follow the path forged by their iron-willed predecessors.
A few who were there had reached the peak. You could see it in their eyes and in their bearing: the gleam of a knowledge that can’t be shared; the relaxed confidence of accomplishment. They know the way now. With their eyes closed they can recount each step, stumble, recovery, and, finally, the joy of looking down on the vast rolling shoulders that reached to the curve of the earth. They stood on the summit of the impossibly high peak and peered across impossible distances. They could and did kiss the sun. And now they watch, advise, and encourage others to do the same.
This event, this summit created the conditions for exposition, discussion, collaboration, and the opportunity to draw strength and sustenance from others who shared the same vision. As such, it was a success. And I’m glad I was part of it.