A Father’s Lament
This was submitted by Todd Tanner, the author of the field report "Balance" that appears in our Fall 2007 Catalog.
Here’s our problem. We walk around the edges. We bar the gates. We bulldog those inconvenient - yeah, that is the word, isn’t it; inconvenient - truths to the ground and brand them Trouble With A Capitol “T” before we banish them to the farthest reaches and darkest corners of our minds. Where, not surprisingly, they fester and then decompose into low-level depression, heartburn and barely remembered nightmares.
It’s a closed system where nothing new gets in and nothing old gets out, and the long and short of it is that we’re stuck in a pattern that can’t be maintained, a world that’s no longer sustainable. Of course, most of us don’t perceive options past the “Same ol’, same ol’...,” so we get up in the morning and head for work, doing the exact same thing we did yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that, hoping subconsciously that something, anything, will be different.
It’s almost as if we look in the mirror and see Alvin Lee singing, “I’d love to change the world/ But I don’t know what to do/ So I leave it up to you.”
That’s the truth of it. We don’t know what to do.
And every day the boogeymen out there grow stronger. Global warming continues its inexorable march toward the dreaded “tipping point.” Peak Oil pushes us a little closer to chaos and collapse. Dead zones spread from our estuaries. Pollution roars from our smoke stacks. The shells of sea creatures literally begin to dissolve into nothingness as our oceans acidify.
Let’s face it. Humanity casts a toxic shadow. No amount of self-delusion or willful disregard can change that. It literally doesn’t matter that I’ll be in Alaska fly fishing for huge rainbows next month, or that you may well be scaling a majestic peak in the Himalayas, or kayaking the beautiful waters off Baja. Our current living arrangement, which features an inordinate emphasis on growth and consumption, has no future. None at all.
My wife just walked in and handed me our little boy. He’s two. They were down at the elementary school playing on the swings and then, unexpectedly, they were home and he was a foot away, looking at me, smiling with such unadulterated delight that I found myself with tears in my eyes. I can’t tell you what that’s like. I can’t describe it. Hell, Hemingway couldn’t have described it. Maybe Dr. Seuss, who explained how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day, came close, but emotion, boundless and unbridled, welling up from some profoundly human place, can’t be stapled onto a page.
At least I can’t do it.
But, and this is a 'but' for the ages, if you’ve ever looked into a little boy’s eyes, or a little girl’s - joyful, trusting, full of love - you know that we have to hold up our end. We have to give our kids a chance. Not just for them, of course, the entire planet deserves a future. But we have to give our children a chance. And that means I can’t leave it up to you. Or to anyone else. I have to do more, consume less, make conscious choices about the future. I have to devote myself to Gandhi’s words: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Because the alternative is unthinkable.
Bio: Todd Tanner lives on the edge of a Montana wilderness with his wife, their young son and their two golden retrievers. He’s a freelance outdoor writer, as well as senior editor and columnist for Sporting Classics magazine.