My three kids are young, too young for me to wax politics with. Nothing worse than an 8-year-old reciting slogans they don’t understand. For now, I’m getting them in the hills, letting them feel the cold and the growl in their bellies after a long day out. I’m doing my best to show them the value of self-reliance and that all their actions will have an opposite and equal reaction. I’m trying to hide the fact that I’m winging this whole fatherhood deal. Until I figure it out, I’ll sit with the elders and pray that I can glean the right coordinates to give them when they are ready.
Last summer I sat on the banks of Smoky Hill River in Kansas listening to Wes Jackson. Earlier in the day it had been a conversation about agriculture, politics and the ancients, but in a not-so-subtle way, Mr. Jackson established the fact that my time with him might be more well-served by simply listening. I took heed.
At 75, with a PhD in genetics, Wes has spent the last 40 years figuring out how to reverse global soil degradation through regenerative agriculture. To call this scientist, farmer, philosopher, who maintains total recall and zero apologies, a prophet might sound over the top, but he has been acutely aware of the environmental crisis we have created for ourselves for over four decades. I listened intently as he wove the history of man and myth seamlessly with science and his own personal seven decades on this planet. As he wound down, I snuck in a question about his opinion of the candidates coming into 2016. He was done for the day but offered this as he headed for the barn, “Politicians are simply reflections of the public.”
Back home his words ring out in my mind with every campaign article and primary debate I witness. As much as I hate to admit it, I can see my own reflection amongst the dissonance and vitriol of Washington. This fall I’ll pinch my nose and check the boxes, but more importantly, I’ll keep the kids in the hills. For as far as I can tell, the elders and the kids are this planet’s best hope.
Defend your child’s future. Register to vote, sign up for election reminders and find voting resources at patagonia.com/voteourplanet.