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."
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!”
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.
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?
Preach it, Brother Dan!
I am 100% with you and all of those who commented before me.
Nicely said Dan
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.
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.