Bullied to Extinction

three images consisting of black and white image of rhino, Joe Campolo with CMM Live Guest Don Catalano, and cartoon image of two business women named Rant and Rave

On Extinction – The death this week of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet, really affected me, and at first I wasn’t sure why. I don’t have any connection with rhinos. Perhaps it is because they seem so powerful and majestic; perhaps it is because looking at a rhino gives us a glimpse as to what the earth was like when dinosaurs roamed it. Most likely it is because the first thing I read about it was a between-the-eyes shot by Ami Vitale, a National Geographic photographer, who stated: “Today, we are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind.” Ouch.

The same day I read about Sudan, I watched the movie Big Miracle. For those who haven’t seen it, the film is about how the entire world came together in 1988 to save a family of three gray whales that were trapped under the ice in Alaska and were at risk of drowning. The entire time I was watching it, my mind kept going back to Sudan. The joy I felt watching humans work to save this family of whales was tainted by the disappointment I felt that we had completely failed Sudan and his family (the only two remaining northern white rhinos on the planet are his daughter and granddaughter). When the movie ended with the real-life euphoria of Free Willy, all I felt was confusion. Humans hold all the cards on this planet as to what lives and what dies, so why did we choose to save a family of whales and let another species go extinct?  And how prevalent is the extinction of a species? The finality of extinction means it must be incredibly rare, right?

What I learned is shocking. Extinction of a species is actually very common; according to experts, 150 to 200 species of plants, insects, birds, and mammals become extinct every 24 hours. And these are not just esoteric and unknown microbes in pond water; recently we have seen the extinction of another species of rhino (West African black), a species of ibex (Pyrenean), seal (Caribbean monk), and two species of tigers (Tasmanian and Javan). What?! This must be some colossal mistake – but it isn’t.

I don’t have any answers as it relates to natural order and evolution, but I do now have a grave concern. What are we becoming when we care more about creating AI that can be used in combat than we do about protecting and saving the life we have on this planet? How can we possibly feel good about ourselves as the dominant species when we exert little to no effort to protect those who are completely at our mercy?

I am not a vegetarian and make no apologies for that; I do believe that there is nobility in creatures that are humanely sacrificed for sustenance. Yet I also believe that all species have an equal right to occupy this earth. It is incumbent upon us – our moral duty if you will – to change our behaviors if continuing them will cause an entire species to become extinct, because those other species do not have the wherewithal to protect themselves by changing theirs. Otherwise we are nothing but a bunch of bullies, and anyone who knows me knows I have spent my entire adult life combating bullies. I must believe that our true colors as humans are reflected in those who worked to save the family of whales, and not in those who have allowed yet another species to go extinct. But we must do better.

For inspiration and wisdom, I will turn, as I frequently do, to Dave Matthews: “When was it killed, the very last dodo bird, and was she aware, she was the very last one.”  Rest in peace, Sudan. I am sorry we let you down.


May the Task Force Be with You – Last Thursday the Hauppauge Industrial Park (HIP) Task Force continued to press forward. I chair the committee whose members include Terri Alessi-Miceli of HIA-LIRich Humann of H2MBob Quarte of AVZ, Anthony Manetta of HB Solutions, and Jim Coughlan of Tritec Real Estate. Our discussion focused on ways the companies in the Industrial Park can create a meaningful partnership with Stony Brook University, much in the same way that companies in Silicon Valley and Stanford University collaborate. We also talked about the vital support we’re receiving from the Town of Smithtown to keep this economic juggernaut growing. Mark your calendar for April 26, when I’ll be moderating an HIA-LI panel, “The Hauppauge Industrial Park: Current and Future Growth.” Learn more and reserve your seat here.

Rant & Rave  I was flattered to be the first guest on the new video spotlight series by my friend Randi Busse, President and Founder of Workforce Development Group, a customer service and employee training organization. We’ve successfully partnered with Randi and her fictitious employees, Rant and Rave (who depict the best and worst in caring for customers), many times over the years for CMM team training. During last Friday’s taping, we talked about the fact that service is everything. Clients won’t care how great your product (or legal work) is if they don’t get great service; they’ll remember how much (or how little) they feel you care about them. Randi totally gets it and does a great job “reprogramming” Rants into Raves. We’ll share the video on social media soon, so make sure to follow CMM on FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Old Friends are Best – On Monday night I caught up with my friend Ed Baldinucci, a partner at Gutman, Mintz, Baker & Sonnenfeldt LLP, over dinner at Pace’s Steak HouseWe went to Stony Brook and Fordham Law together, and we always enjoy reminiscing about those days. Although the years pass by, somehow we still look the same…

CMM Live – I found this week’s episode of CMM Live truly inspiring. Our first topic was hunger on Long Island, and we were happy to have Randi Shubin Dresner, Island Harvest Food Bank’s President and CEO, with us to address this critical issue. Discussing her start in the nonprofit sector, Randi recalled a visit from the March of Dimes during her early school days, when her class was asked who wanted to be the “school rep.” Randi explained that “I raised my hand and never put it down again.” While the statistics about hunger on Long Island are distressing and even shocking (it’s estimated that Island Harvest’s services touch one in 10 Long Islanders), Island Harvest delivers sustenance and hope. She talked about the organization’s focus on treating everyone with dignity, its efficiency (94 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to support their programs), and the insatiable philanthropic appetite of millennials. If you want to help, Randi has extended an open invitation to visit their facility and learn about ways to get involved.

Next, Don Catalano, President and CEO of iOptimize Realty, joined us to discuss the future of commercial real estate here on Long Island. Don explained the many ways his incredible military background in the U.S. Army Special Forces HALO (High Altitude – Low Opening Parachutist) and SCUBA translated into running a successful business. iOptimize is an exclusive tenant rep, working with national clients including Coca-Cola, Progressive, and Allstate. He explained how his unique approach in auditing the market and making landlords compete for a tenant’s business adds value – not to mention the amazing aerial shots he’s able to take for clients as an avid pilot and photographer. Watch the full interview with these inspiring business leaders here.