WBEZ | sophia siskel http://www.wbez.org/tags/sophia-siskel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en One CEO's garden ethic http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/one-ceos-garden-ethic-106522 <p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/reneerk/3979280475/lightbox/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/reflection%20by%20renee%20rendler-kaplan.jpg" style="height: 479px; width: 610px;" title="A pond in the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Renee Rendler-Kaplan via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>Yoga pants really have nothing to do with environmental ethics. But to hear Lululemon, Apple or any number of companies appropriate terms like &ldquo;ecosystem,&rdquo; you might start to think all CEOs are green thumbs.</p><p>Most are not, but <a href="http://www.chicagobotanic.org/info/senior_staff/siskel.php" target="_blank">Sophia Siskel</a>, CEO of the Chicago Botanic Garden, thinks more should be.</p><p>&ldquo;Gardening has the power to heal the world&rsquo;s economic and environmental problems,&rdquo; she said Friday at Northwestern University, well aware of how that admittedly tall order might be received.</p><p>&ldquo;Someone could say that&rsquo;s flowery, flighty or naïve,&rdquo; said Siskel, who got her master of business administration degree from Northwestern, but &ldquo;we have to stop being embarrassed about the things we&rsquo;re passionate about when they don&rsquo;t have hardcore quantitative metrics.&rdquo;</p><p>Not that protecting the environment comes at the expense of business, boasting more than 1 million visitors per year, the Chicago Botanic Garden saw its highest-ever attendance in 2012 &mdash;&nbsp;a record it had set in each of the three years prior.</p><p>Several years ago the garden made a commitment to beauty as its own end, focusing on six basic tenets Siskel learned as a gardener: patience, beauty, science, learning from each other, learning form hard work, and faith.</p><p>Those personal values can inform business decisions. &ldquo;Impatience is not an asset in building a strong business or an enduring economy,&rdquo; Siskel said. &ldquo;Impatience breeds waste.&rdquo;</p><p>Refocusing on their inherent interest in natural beauty also led to a renewal of the garden&rsquo;s scientific mission. They developed a plan with NASA to train up to 60 Chicago-area teachers to use NASA&rsquo;s global earth observation data in a climate change curriculum for 4<sup>th</sup>-12<sup>th</sup> graders.</p><p>The writer Michael Pollan offered up a similar &ldquo;garden ethic&rdquo; in his book <em><a href="http://michaelpollan.com/books/second-nature/">Second Nature</a></em>. He bought a farm and attempted to let it grow free, with disastrous results. But waging an all-out war on the natural world also ended in failure. Pollan arrived at a garden ethic to reconcile his respect for the integrity of nature with his needs as a member of contemporary society.</p><p>Siskel&rsquo;s garden ethic shares that environmentalist sentiment, but applies it more specifically to professional and personal relationships. She pointed to the proliferation of urban gardening and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/greencorps-graduates-cultivate-citys-green-jobs-105042" target="_blank">green jobs programs for hard-to-employ individuals</a>&nbsp;as evidence of the value of lessons learned through gardening.</p><p>&ldquo;Economic calculations often ignore nature. The result can be the destruction of the very ecosystems on which our economy is based,&quot; she said. &quot;Somehow by the time we get to be grown-ups, we forget that the future of life on earth depends on the ability of plants to sustain us.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="https://www.twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Sat, 06 Apr 2013 12:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/one-ceos-garden-ethic-106522