A Dad Struggles With College, Careers And Climate Change

BY ON June 12, 2014

3 hikers. Will climate change affect their climb?

This is a guest post by Rob Sisson, President and CEO of ConservAmerica:

My sons, high school seniors-to-be, leave two days after Father’s Day for a student exchange trip to our sister city of Wiesloch, Germany. Over the course of three weeks, they’ll learn a lot about that country and, not insignificantly, a lot about their own country.

Germany has embarked on Energiewende — literally transforming its energy sector to total reliance on renewable energy. On a single day in May, Germany generated a record 74% of its needed power with renewable sources. My sons are smart (they take after their mom), and I expect them to come home and ask, “Why aren’t we doing this in the U.S.?”

Since we plan to leave on a trip to backpack and visit colleges out west when the boys get home, I’ll have plenty of captive-audience time in our minivan to answer that question. But there’s a more important parenting discussion we’ll need to address along the way.

Son Ben announced several months ago, his plans to attend Colorado State University (sight unseen) and enroll in its ROTC program. He wants to pursue a degree in wildlife biology and learn mountaineering, survival, and other outdoors skills through ROTC. After his required service in the military, he hopes to join the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service. Frankly, a plan so well thought out it trumps my thoughts on what I’m going to do tomorrow.

I’ve never been one to live vicariously though my sons, but I might be tempted to do so if Ben is someday a ranger in Grand Teton or Yellowstone! And, that ROTC scholarship would help ease my financial concerns about paying for college and my own eventual retirement.

However, mom isn’t thrilled and has her heels dug in on both the distance from our home and the potentially lethal downside of military service. So, we’re going to visit CSU and see if anyone’s mind changes. It will give me the opportunity to explain the connection between the impacts of climate change we witness along the way (beetle infestations, drought, wildfires), Germany’s all-out effort to convert its economy to clean energy, why the Pentagon views climate change as one of the top risks to our men and women in uniform, and the big decisions Ben will make in the coming months.

The Pentagon warns that global instability caused by climate change will put our soldiers in harm’s way in future years. With Ben’s announcement, the life or death consequences of climate change have suddenly, and unexpectedly, become very real for our family. Either as a soldier or wildlife biologist, Ben would be on the frontlines as we confront the problems and impacts of climate change. His mom is quick to point out there is a great distinction between tackling the problem with science in a wilderness backcountry and parachuting into a conflict zone with a gun.

As is almost always the case, mom is right.


rob_sisson2Rob Sisson is president of ConservAmerica, the national organization of Republicans for environmental protection. ConservAmerica works to restore the GOP’s great conservation legacy. A two term Mayor of the City of Sturgis, Michigan, Rob was the first small city mayor to sign the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. As mayor, he was the only elected Republican official to speak National Climate Crisis Day on the Capitol steps in 2007. The Michigan League of Conservation Voters recognized him as Michigan Environmental Leader of the Year. As president of ConservAmerica, Rob travels the country educating audiences why “conservation is conservative.” He is the author of two books, Financing the Small Business and The Legend of Chief White Pigeon, and is a frequent contributor to a number of national publications. Rob is the proud dad of twins, Nathaniel and Benjamin, and happily married to their mom, Theresa. The family resides in Sturgis, but can often be found in Michigan’s Hemingway Country or the wilds of Wyoming.



TOPICS: Climate Change, Colorado, Dads, Renewable Energy, Schools