The Legacy We Leave Behind: A Tribute to the Well-Lived Lives of Dave Foreman and Herman Daly

Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Crane at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota. My favorite bird for some of my favorite heroes. (c) Karen Shragg

When Paul McCartney, Graham Nash, and any of the rest of the Rolling Stones leave the planet I will be inconsolable. I came of age during the music revolution and their music has continued to bring joy and inspiration to my life. But I won’t mourn them in the same way I mourn environmental heroes. Although my dear parents gave me, their first-born, guitar and piano lessons, I was never destined to be a musician. I have, however, taken on the mantle of an activist, caring about the earth in my career and writings. When I hear that my heroes inspired by the Earth Day have left the planet, I feel an inner tug that asks, who will replace them?

When our musical icons die their music keeps selling and documentaries keep mining their stories. Michael Jackson died 13 years ago and even with recent documentaries detailing the dark side of his life, he still earns 362 million each year for those in his will. Other musicians, influenced by the musicians who came before them, will undoubtedly come along to play the arenas they once filled.

Sadly, when we lose our environmental heroes there is barely a whimper in the major media. There may be a story or two on social media, but the monumental efforts of their life’s work will only be fodder for a film festival someday if someone makes the painstaking effort of raising millions. Fortunately, the two greats we just lost, who were unafraid to discuss overpopulation, will have NGO’s to carry on their work.

We recently had to bid farewell to wildlife advocate Dave Foreman and ecological economist Herman Daly. I have been trying to figure out what they had in common. To me, it is their relentless fearlessness at promoting their worldview to a world that is headed in the opposite direction. They each founded movements that will be their continuing legacy. Daly’s brilliance manifested in the organization CASSE, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, where he served on the executive board until his recent death. Foreman’s life’s work to save the wilderness and all of its inhabitants will continue in the work done by the Rewilding Institute which he founded.

Their lives should not only ask us to continue to support the causes they believed in but to reflect on what our own legacies will be. They were brilliant people with activist hearts who never gave up their vision for a sustainable planet even though that meant going against the tide and swimming upstream, without a lifejacket. Neither were afraid to tackle the way humans swarm the planet in such an unsustainable way. As an overpopulation activist, I am inspired to continue their legacy by doing my best and demonstrating the same kind of courage. They endured many critics and so can I. There’s just too much at stake.

Those who didn’t know of their work when they were alive, must study their legacy of books and speeches and the work of their NGO’s, because unless we tame the beast that has become us, we will need to ask our favorite bands to start playing our swan song.

This originally appeared on Karen Shragg’s Moving Upstream blog. 

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