Feb 6, 2020
By Jerry Dodrill
If you opened my family’s old picture album, you’d see sepia-toned images of road trips to the natural wonders of the American West that date back over a century. From 1916, the year our National Park system was established, you can see my great grandparents camping in Yosemite with a Model T Ford. From 1936 is a photo of my grandmother climbing Half Dome’s cables in a dress and leather shoes.
While in art school, I landed a job working in the gallery of famed National Geographic photographer/writerGalen Rowell. In addition to being a legendary mountaineer, he was deeply tied to the Bay Area’s environmental movement. His slideshow called “Preservation and the Spirit of Adventure,” gave examples of athletes and mountaineers like Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay who spent their lives working to protect Sherpa culture and the Everest region. The presentation was a call-to-action to get involved in protecting our wild places.
I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some of the most dedicated and influential conservation and landscape photographers of our time, to run workshops and expeditions around the world.
When I return home to where I live in Bodega, I find that our local landscapes are even more inspiring than those big-name destinations.
Our historic record of grassroots activism is what gives us the quality of life we all treasure. We have established a spider web of protected areas, greenbelts and parks that serve as community separators.
But when I’ve gone to public hearings and meetings where people are working to further preserve these areas from development and degradation, I’m both impressed and alarmed that often it’s the same people who fought to establish the initial protections for these areas who are still the ones fighting to protect them.
At forty-six years old, I can look around the room and ask, where is the rest of my generation? Do we take these lands that our predecessors saved for granted? Are we willing to stand up for our open spaces?
A few years ago, when I was in South Texas, I had an opportunity to share time with Mexican conservationist Patricio Robles Gil. He was an aged gentleman who was instrumental in establishing wildlife sanctuaries in the Rio Grande Valley and Panther preserves on the Yucatan Peninsula. He spoke about the challenges he had faced to get needed support to make it happen. Astonished, I asked him: “With all you’ve seen and done in your life, how do measure your success as a conservationist?”
“The thing is, there is no success. The conservation battles we lose today are lost forever. The conservation battles we win today are won temporarily. It’s only a matter of time before future societies will decide that the resources we have protected can be better used for other purposes.”
A grave sadness came over him. “It’s critical that nature be part of the daily ritual in the lives of our children so that they have a personal relationship with it and a desire to protect it when it is threatened.”
Patricio’s words resonated to my core. I came home questioning what I was doing with my life. Then in 2014 my climbing partner. Brad Parker fell and died in Yosemite while training to repeat one of Galen’s major first ascents in the High Sierra. From that grief, a group of friends and family started the B-Rad Foundation.
We use the pillars of Adventure, Stewardship and Health to get disadvantaged kids out in nature through our climbing, biking, and beach cleanup programs.
If we love this place, we have to take the baton from those who came before us…to continue the race for preservation they started.
The future society that Patricio spoke of is already knocking on our door. Nature preserves are being bulldozed to build the border wall. Water protections are being weakened. Preserved land we thought was ours for generations to come is being opened to drilling and mining for resources. Environmental protections are being removed instead of being established.
Whether it’s protecting clean water, fighting offshore drilling or climate change, we can’t afford to just wait for “them” to do something. The honest truth is, we are all “them”. The responsibility is OURS.
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