By Monica Wilcox
Yes, it’s true. I tried to hide it but secrets are like glaciers upon the landscape of the soul; they freeze over for a time, then pull back to reveal their grinding destruction.
My father was the Al Gore of Wyoming from 1970-2005. He called himself a conservationalist but that was a cover; the man was greener than a cesspool. To be the movement before “The Movement” takes serious grit. He was left with his own meager resources – an office cubical with the State of Wyoming and his two children. So it is that my childhood began.
People think I’m joking when I say our house was cold, but we had relatives who refused to spend the night under such conditions. My brother and I awoke to the short promise of humming heating vents. We’d pull one of the six blankets from our bed to smother one of the vents, constructing a hot air canopy over our wee bodies. There were a few blissful mornings when we’d actually overheat. I’d have to break out of our cocoon like a red faced, sweaty Texan. Oh the glory! I survived, and my father had his proof that children could be raised in a home environment with temperatures averaging 54.5 degrees.
EVERYTHING we did was in consideration of the planets resources: bathing, shopping, yard maintenance, scooping snow, errands, vacations, eating, even hunting (Surprise, surprise! The hunting industry is credited by many as adding to the start of the conservation movement.) Sprinkler systems, gas lawnmowers, electric blankets, porch lights, snow blowers, kiddy pools: these were the dalliances of “the wasteful.”
My father did not limit his green experimentation to us. He personally built a sunroom onto the back of our home, complete with water jugs under the brown tiled floor and 12’ x 12’ insulation panels to cover the windows at night. We had squares of insulation covering our windows during winter and panels tucked into the top third of our hallways and stairwells to hold heat in the living room. We watered our lawn in the summer with the ground water we’d collected from our four subterranean sump pumps. My friends thought he was this wackadoo cowboy. I thought he was a pain in my frozen keister.
Fear became his unintentional motivator. Whenever I became exasperated with this lifestyle and would dare to ask the big “Why?” His answer was always, “We’re saving the earth for your children’s future.” Here’s a newsflash, Dad: an 8-year-old cannot see their own future, much less the future of their children. But there was more, “What will happen when there’s no drinking water? What are you going to do when the air is toxic and we’re suffering from lung cancer?” These remarks did not motivate me to turn off the lights but they made for some wicked dreams.
My father didn’t believe these things might be possible, he foresaw them. He feared for humanity on a global scale. His life, his passion, revolved around our natural resources and energy consumption. Every workday he stared at our globe and the charts of skyrocketing energy demand. Locked system + exponential demand = disaster; simple mathematics really.
Unfortunately, the rest of my world was not tinted green. I’d watch my neighbor watering their yard, and the sidewalk, and the gutter, and the creek… all afternoon. I’d walk into homes in the afternoon blazing in electric light and pumping electric heat. I’d see moms crank their faucets to full blast to wash the dishes… one at a time. My friends often forgot to turn off the hose after they were done having water fights with their cats… for a week. I’d march home puffed up with reality and full of argument, “No one else cares, Dad.” He’d reply, “Every time we save that’s a little bit more for the future.” It seemed to me like everything we were saving today, someone else was taking for tomorrow.