I grew up as a feral child. I know I don’t look much like Tarzan, but I also lost my parents at a very young age.
I wasn’t raised by apes or wolves, but had the fortune to live in a place of lakes, rivers, swamps and forests. This was my jungle. It was my escape. As a kid I would get up before dawn, when the lake was like glass, dust floating on its surface, to go fishing. After sunrise I’d tromp around the woods watching for animals or finding bloodroot, trillium and marsh marigolds. I built forts of sumac and tree houses in elms. I tamed a wild raccoon pup and named him Louis. Without adults, there was no text to this wild process, but I learned one thing. All things are connected.
I thought I wanted to be a forest ranger, but as I grew up, to honor my father, I studied science and graduated in Chemical Engineering, became a Marketer and Branding professional by vocation, and an entrepreneur by nature. Somewhere along the way, children and now grandchildren have happened.
While I was raising my family, I understood that the environment needed protection. In my day, the EPA was formed. Clean Water acts passed. Ozone holes started healing. I haven’t had my head in the sand, but I’ve been in denial. Thinking that some magical solution would appear for the problems we face or that someone else would take responsibility. The excuse was, someone else is working on this, right? I was busy.
I’ve even contributed to political campaigns, and environmental groups. Can’t I buy absolutions from climate tragedy through the Sierra Club? But the news is grim. Its easy to lose hope and get cynical.
When I do, I try to remember again, that everything in nature and on earth is connected. Not just the physical processes, we humans are also connected. That the causes of poverty, discrimination, social justice and the environment are also connected. To make progress in one is to make progress in all. That if we are to change our path of environmental self destruction we must also change some of the world view and values that underlay it; greed, fear and failed capitalism with unending consumption, and rape of the earth.
Now my jungle is gone. The trillium and marsh marigolds are gone. The lake is filled with milfoil, zebra mussels, and water fleas. Last year the ice went off the lake a month sooner than it did when I was a kid. These are small changes compared to what is coming, and I am afraid.
When my five-year-old grandson, Teo, was recently visiting, we tried to find some jungle. He liked the patch we found. To keep him interested, I made up something called the Young Earthwalkers. He wasn’t sure it was real, so I made up a “pledge” for him to take.
He held up his hand and repeated these words. “As I walk the earth, I promise to preserve, defend and conserve our air, water, lands, and all living things that dwell in them, because we are all connected.”
When he finished, he looked at me and asked, “What do we do now Abba?” My heart stopped. He wasn’t asking about what we do in the next ten minutes but what do we do about protecting the earth. My own grandson was challenging my passivity. Over the coming months, I thought about it. Finally figuring that if the pledge was good enough for him, then maybe it should be good enough for me.
I let my business partner know I was leaving in six months, and I’ve given myself another six months to explore options and find a niche that makes sense for me. This blog is part of the process.
We are slowly cooking ourselves. This isn’t an opinion. It’s a fact supported by decades of science. I don’t know if any small act I commit will make a difference, but I have no choice. Otherwise Teo and my other grandchildren don’t stand a chance.
Savor the Earth!
L. Hobart Stocking