A non-partisan, neutral perspective supporting diversity in the color of water

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Reflections on Activism

A close friend of mine died of cancer this week. Greg Bernaski and I studied geology together as undergraduate and graduate students. Greg taught me to guide whitewater rafts, starting on the North Platte River in Wyoming, the Green, Yampa, Colorado, and San Juan rivers in Utah, and a couple of trips down the Grand Canyon, one which lead to my first flip in Crystal Rapid. We hiked some great canyons in Wyoming and Utah including the magical Paria in Utah. He was a skilled petroleum geologist working for British Petroleum his entire career, both on the Gulf Coast and in Alaska. He was also equally skilled as a hydrogeologist. He was 52.

So what does all of this have to do with activism? I was searching for a suitable quote to post on the online condolences section of his obituary, leading to one from John Wesley Powell that fit the bill. But I found the following surprise:

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. 
The activist is the man who cleans up the river. 
~ Former US Presidential Candidate, Billionaire, 
and Apple Computer Investor Ross Perot

Regardless of how one feels about Ross Perot, his politics, his way of doing business, if one remembers his efforts to become elected as an independent in a past presidential race, one recalls this was someone who implemented a "no nonsense" approach to life. Quite frankly, thanks to his foresight, he brought Apple Computer back from a near death with Steve Jobs and we all know the rest of this story.

We read and hear many proselytizing about water scarcity, water pollution, water, water, everywhere, but one has to ask themselves this question - do any of these "prophets" do anything beyond talk?

The Rainbow Water Coalition has been mostly about greywater, including personal adventures in greywater reuse. So, in the spirit of *cleaning up the river* and contrary to my position that the Oregon Graywater Reuse program may fail due to the emphasis on costly permitting, I anticipate securing the first state permit in my community to ramp up my greywater reuse beyond the Hughie. And my students will continue to be lectured about my adventures, hoping the discussions will inspire them to not only talk about water, but do something about water.

I saw Greg a couple of years ago in Alaska, and spoke to him a couple of weeks ago on the telephone. One thing I noted was that he never spoke about being ill or cancer. Upon reflecting on many famous and often quoted activists, I think I now know why.
* * *
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. 
A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
~ Mark Twain, Animal Rights Activist, Peace Activist

1 comment:

  1. Todd,
    Thanks for your blogging over the years. I look forward to reports on your permitted project. Somebody's gotta be the first! I have just tuned in to the proposal to pipe Corvallis's wastewater under the Willamette river to cooling ponds/artificial wetlands. It strikes me that diversion of our summertime shower/bathtub water from the wastewater stream to landscape watering would acomplish the same thing (cooling the wastewater) with more environmental benefit.