March Newsletter

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A Message from our CEO

No year at PAST is ever ordinary. How can it be when we’re in the extraordinary business of helping discover, protect and share millions-year-old fossils – ancient objects that provide us with the evidence for our key messaging of helping to end discrimination and the destruction of our planet? But this year is particularly special because we’re celebrating our 25th birthday, and have a calendar of unmissable events and projects planned to mark this landmark occasion.

As a member of PAST’s broader family, we’d like to thank you for the role you’ve played in our journey so far.

From our founding on July 12th 1994, PAST has been built on collaboration across every level of our work – starting under the Chairmanship of Gavin Relly, who initiated our approach of bringing business, government, science and civic society closer together. Working with partners, big and small, is now a signature of our success as the largest, independent palaeosciences NPO in Africa – as is the community of supporters and volunteers who passionately believe in what we do.

As we enter our next 25-year period, we’re taking on the challenge of putting into place the strategies and programmes that will enable us to look back on our legacy in 2044 with enormous pride. Our focus for this year is therefore unashamedly on fundraising to enable us to continue with the crucial work we do. We’re asking members of the PAST family to join us in this initiative – whether through sharing the global importance of our work with your network and your business, on an individual level or any other way (we’re always keen to hear your suggestions!).

We say this knowing the pressure for funding support from so many worthwhile projects on the African continent. But we believe that PAST’s work and our ancient fossil heritage have a unique role to play in ending the two most fundamental challenges facing this planet we all call home: discrimination, particularly that based on race, and the rapid, human-induced loss of natural environments and biodiversity.

Our work and our ancient fossil heritage have a unique role to play in ending the two most fundamental challenges facing this planet

It is only through fossils that we can unequivocally show that humankind shares a common origin in Africa, and that all living things – plants, animals and humans – share a common origin. There is no more important message than this for the current times. I would encourage you to read an article written by our Chief Scientist, Professor Robert J. Blumenschine, in The Conversation last year, to gain deeper insight into this. Here is the link.

Over the past 25 years we’ve expanded from funding individuals at the University of the Witwatersrand to research teams and institutions across South Africa and Africa, and to broadening our scope considerably from palaeo-anthropology to palaeontology (thereby increasing our time scope by hundreds of million years). We’ve funded thousands of postgraduate degrees, post-docs and technical capacity grants, and supported the world’s most important fossil sites, research teams and African academic publications and conferences.

Crucially, under the Chairmanship of Rick Menell, we’ve increasingly recognised the importance of integrating research with education and public understanding as a way of taking the messages of our shared origins to as broad an audience as possible. Our Walking Tall project and All from One campaign have been rightly acclaimed for their ability to use our shared origins as a tool for securing a just and sustainable future – and, with enough funding, 2019 and beyond will see both of these initiatives take this message to even more learners, teachers and citizens across the world.

We are proud to be celebrating our 25th anniversary along with South Africa’s. We came into being when our country moved from apartheid into democracy. Our principles remain closely aligned with those of equality and justice that are written into our Constitution and evidenced in the fossils we help discover, protect and share.

Our principles remain closely aligned with those of equality and justice that are written into our Constitution and evidenced in the fossils we help discover, protect and share.

We have much to share with you about our commemorative events and initiatives in the coming months. We are positive our 2019 programme will be both meaningful in furthering PAST’s mission and exciting for members of our PAST family. We invite you to get in touch – to share ideas, to see how we can work together, and to talk fossils. Our door is always open and we’re thrilled that you’ll be celebrating this momentous year with us.

Andrea Leenen
CEO

Morgan Collett