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A Man's Mission

By, Dan O'Brien

In a recent blog post I characterized “the hot air emanating from Washington DC” as more dangerous than the smoke from California’s devastating forest fires. (I was talking about some of the tragic proclamations coming from the White House, not the comedy of the even more recent government shutdown.) Because Wild Idea Buffalo Company is first and foremost a conservation minded company, I was, of course, referring to the United States’ abandonment of the Paris Climate Accords, the opening of our public lands to the extraction industries, and the reduction in size of protected lands across the west.

That blog post elicited a thoughtful response from one of our good customers who, I am sure, had our best interests in mind: “…Great products, philosophy, photography and all around company with whom I feel good about supporting. One thought, please let this be a politics-free zone…specifically, statements like “dangerous hot air from Washington” have no place and moreover ruin the tranquility of your brand."

Here is my email response: "Thanks for your support. Sorry if my comment offended you. Certainly don't want to be too political. I respect your comment about keeping things apolitical, but please understand that conservation has been my life for 70 years. I don't consider defending our natural world political, I consider it survival for my grandkids. Very best regards."

Dan O'Brien

I’ve been thinking about that benign exchange for a couple weeks and have grown embarrassed with my weak response. What we do at Wild Idea is not a game of commercial strategy. We feel that we are playing for “ALL the marbles.” We are engaged in a great, existential struggle that none of us can afford to ignore. We are doing, through our actions, what most people can’t do directly or won’t do, and what most of creation has no voice to do. Though it is soothing to think that our brand is tranquil, it is not so. Wild Idea Buffalo Company is about underscoring the destruction that out-of-control capitalism has visited upon the natural world. The suggestion that it is all a marketing strategy is insulting; though I’m sure our valued customer did not intend any such thing. 

Between the time of that initial blog post and now I went to see the movie The Darkest Hour. If you haven’t seen it, go as soon as you can and watch Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in front of the English Parliament. Churchill is, of course, surrounded by politics as he strains to make England see that opposing Adolph Hitler is much more than a political stance. Notice the look on the face of Ronald Pickup who plays Neville Chamberlain as he realizes that his efforts to appease Hitler have been little more than the a scolding finger in Churchill’s face – the equivalent of saying, “Now, now Winston, let’s keep the language kind and civil.”

Or consider Major Buttric of America’s infant Continental Army. Imagine him in 1775, standing at the Concord Bridge commanding the rag-tag group of common men, much like most of us. On the other side of the bridge stands lines of red-coated invaders. Major Buttric and his men are facing down the most powerful army the world had ever known. If you’ve ever been to the Concord River Valley, you know it is one of the most idyllic and peaceful places imaginable. You also know that even after 250 years, the air is still thick with the tension of that day in 1775. Now imagine Major Buttric turning to the embattled farmers who stand shoulder to shoulder with him and saying, “Now boys, let’s keep this place a politics free zone.” No. What Buttric really said was: “Fire, for god’s sake fellow soldiers – Fire!”

Bear Butte

I do not mean to minimize those battles fought to protect our civilization or our freedom. Quite the opposite. I only mean to elevate the importance of defending our environment and to point out that victory often comes through uncomfortable words and actions. The stakes could not be higher. We are fighting for life itself.

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77 comments

  • Dan, you’re absolutely right in your use of the bully pulpit. The current administration is an existential threat to life on this planet. I awoke during the night and looked up at the starry sky. Our tiny world is all there is in the cold forbidding universe; a biological wonder that relies on responsible stewardship. As a ship’s engineer, I have great respect for the intricate relationships within an organism, whether an engine room or the natural world. Those of Nature are being destroyed by a chaotic and thoughtless regime in Washington, the effects of which will be global.

    I’m also concerned by the administration’s callous attitude toward animals and how that worsens the plight of those poor creatures trapped on industrial farms with no means of escape. And I wonder: what kind of world are we passing along to future generations?

    Keith and Kay Lewis
  • Preach it, Brother Dan!

    I am 100% with you and all of those who commented before me.

    Bob Park
  • Nicely said Dan

    Mike
  • I think that sometimes people haven’t been raised to revere the natural cycle of life and that we are a part of it. So..by standing up and bringing awareness to this fact we can only hope and pray that all humans have an epiphany to this fact. We are stewards of the Earth.

    Janika Mahon
  • Dan — Thank you. The land may be tranquil, but the mission to conserve it isn’t. I’ve been working at stewardship of one sort or another for almost 40 years now. I’ve always felt like it was a race, and that there were no guarantees of success, but I always had hope. People like you and Jill were evidence that the hope was well placed. Buying WIB was my family’s way of connecting our efforts with yours to help keep momentum going. I’m now for the first time feeling like the race isn’t going to come out well. That we’re falling behind. Like struggling in one of those dreams where your feet won’t move no matter how you struggle to lift them. Passivity and tranquilly and good manners are surrender and loss. Conservation is now inescapably a political act. The nation is led by a man disinterested in the future of the planet. He’s in it for himself and that’s it. His enablers have the conservation ethic of the buffalo hunters and passenger pigeon hunters. Wanting to leave the world a better place has become a partisan position — and not because the stewards and conservationists have made it so. It is because a group of our fellow citizens have turned away from what had been a consensus that believed in science, facts, and humble accountability to empirical truth. There is no tranquility in silence before evil and destruction. There is no brand worth defending that is agnostic about the centrality of stewardship. Keep ordering us to fire, keep pointing to the danger in accommodation, no matter how seductive the blandishments of “getting along.” Keep being you, only more so.

    Thomas Jensen
  • Personally, I think both points of view – ecologically sound practices vs job creation through opening up more land for energy production – are very single-focused. What if both goals could be reached? What if proven, sound ecological practices can co-exist with job creation in the energy industry? Our Universe is miraculous and is always open to a both/and option; in fact, favors that point of view as opposed to either/or because it is expansive.

    I’ve seen the failure of the environmental movement to be that you are protecting generations in the future while fellow human beings have been living in poverty. To me, it is not okay for the coal miner in Virginia’s family to be starving, without utilities, or a sound home so that three generations from now people can enjoy the land you are protecting.

    I’ve seen the failure of the job creation movement to be that they don’t go deeply enough into the environmental camp to see what valuable insights and processes exist there. They tend to look at whether there is a measurable, positive effect from a particular act. If there is no measurable improvement, they wonder if certain practices are just based in mythology. They want results today not in some unspecified future.

    When all is said and done, this is a failure to communicate. No one is willing to give up their entrenched position to ask questions and really hear what the other side has to say. So far, I see very few people willing to ask the really difficult both/and questions like, “How can we preserve the environment and create attractive jobs for people who want to work and can’t find a good job?” [And, please don’t say, “Well, we can retrain coal miners to go into offices and work in technology.” That would be like me telling you to get off the prairie and hole yourself up in an office that hasn’t had an open window in 20 years.] OR “What would it take for me to be employed at a job I would enjoy; while, the Earth and everyone and everything who lives here is valued and protected?”

    Until we are willing to ask the both/and questions, there is no coming together to create out-of-the-box solutions that value everyone and meet everyone’s needs. There is you telling the current Government that creating jobs is a bad thing, when all they see is miners being employed again. There is the current Government looking at the environmental movement like you are spending tons of money for very little effect, while people who want to work are jobless and in need.

    Is that really the legacy you want to leave for seven generations – to teach your descendants that they are always right, that there is no other points of view worth listening to, that civil discourse is dangerous, and that someone who doesn’t agree with you should be resisted strongly, if not punished for their lack of agreement? If it is, then you won’t create an environmentally balanced world because your world is out of balance to begin with – it doesn’t allow space and expression for all of Mother Earth’s children. It only allows space and expression to the ones you value.

    Are you willing to stop resisting, which actually stops you from manifesting your highest good, long enough to start asking more empowering and expansive questions?

    Melody-Rose Parker
  • Right on brother Dan. I am with you 100% all the way. The current politics is in very great danger of destroying life on earth as we know it. The use of Roundup with glyphosate on the corn and soy used to feed the 99% of all meat in this country in confined area feeding operations is poisoning 99% of our population. Glyphosate kills all the beneficial bacteria in our gut, and if you look at the rise in autism and many other health conditions, the curve of the increase in many diseases matches exactly with the curve of the increasing use of Roundup on our crops. They even spray it on wheat and many other crops to dessicate the crops and make them easier to harvest. We are in a life and death fight for survival, and I too am doing all I can to fight the current downward political spiral. More power to you. Love, Don

    Don Meyer
  • Your words, as always, are well expressed. To paraphrase Gandhi, in disturbing times it is not ok for good men to do nothing. Democracy is threatened by a selfish bully, seduced by power and greed. Rather than give useless words to such a person, you have chosen to maintain your courageous energy by nurturing our wildlife and our land, moving forward to do your part, relating to the American Indian community and the animal symbolic of their great culture, the bison. You probably can’t touch Washington, Dan, but stay committed to giving back to American values on this continent.

    David Eberhard
  • Thank you Dan.

    Nancy Barker
  • En ce moment Mr Trump est en Suisse , ce Monsieur me fait peur ! Félicitations à vous Monsieur Dan O’Brien de
    prendre la défense de notre planète , avec vos moyens et votre plume . ( La politique et la religion vont perdre notre
    belle planète bleue .

    Steiner Jean-Pierre
  • Yes, Sir. Fight the Good Fight.

    Mason
  • I don’t know anyone, politically or otherwise, who is rationally opposed to conservation, clean air, clean water, etc. That being said, you can hold that position and also be opposed to digesting the global warming/climate change hysteria lock, stock and barrel. Google the Degrowth Movement and you’ll see another side of the green evolution. I applaud you Dan for your dedication to conservation and capitalism. For the degrowthers, though, you would be seen as part of the problem rather than the solution.

    David Jones
  • I stand firmly with you. I fear that our citizens’ desire to be apolitical has helped place us where we are today. Our countrymen and countrywomen have made a very poor showing regarding their participation in our political system. We must become more political, not less, get involved, speak truth to power, vote, protect our only planet, and work tirelessly for our grandchildren’s threatened home.

    Tom Ackley
  • Bravo……as always!!!! My children, now grown, always heard their mother say…..“Just call it like it is….” Something that Dan has always done as well. Again, I say “Bravo Dan!”

    Sara T Welch
  • If not now, when? If not you,then who? It is time for all of us who care to stand up and be heard. Damm the political correctness, full steam ahead!

    Well stated Dan?

    Michael

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