Mercury and Climate Change: A Father’s Haunting

BY ON June 15, 2012

Father and son fishing on a dock in a lake

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

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.” ~ Norman MacleanA River Runs Through It and Other Stories

Both of my grandfathers loved to fish. When I was a child in the 1960’s, my dad was a school teacher. Our long summer vacations were spent with my grandparents, and many humid evenings were spent on a pontoon or dock casting for bass and bluegills.

Through the haze of my memory, I can still recreate the sense of one or the other of my grandfathers reaching his arms around me to show me how to handle the spinning reel or how to set the hook. I can smell their skin, hear their voices, and feel their evening whiskers rasp my cheek. Both have been gone for too many years now.

Back then, time stretched so far in front of me, I never noticed the horizon.

One of the great gifts my dad gave to our family was camping. He purchased a used pop-up camper when I was eight years old. From then until I graduated from college, we spent two weeks every summer in a Michigan State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan. We walked the beaches, swam, fished, watched sunsets, and waited for the northern lights to appear over campfires. I spent so much time shadowing the park naturalist, I earned a nickname from my family–Ranger Rob.

Three decades later, my parents live on a lake nearby. At family gatherings, we thumb through old photo albums of those vacations. With each passing year, the people in the pictures become less recognizable, but the horizon behind them looms larger and larger.

My dad and I have been blessed to share many special moments with my twin sons, now fifteen. From their first swimming experience to their first cutthroat trout caught on dry flies in Wyoming, Dad has been there to make those memories for my boys.

In his 70’s now, the thought of him missing from my life creeps into my mind like an uninvited guest. I know that as long as water exists for young boys and men to fish upon, my sons will be united with their great-grandfathers and grandpa.

Today, our water is threatened by mercury and other toxins emitted by our voracious addiction to fossil fuels. In Michigan, the Great Lakes State, we’re warned to not eat wild fish caught from the lakes due to mercury contamination. Unchecked development and growth creates an unquenchable thirst in many places. Climate change has introduced scores of new threats to water supplies and safety. The list goes on and on.

I yearn to peek beyond the horizon that stretches at water’s end, to see what lies ahead for my sons and their sons. Like Norman MacLean’s quote above, I too am haunted by water.

Thank you, Rob!


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TOPICS: Coal, Dads, Food, Michigan, Pollution