Very recently, my father passed away. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with him in the weeks prior to his death in a way that I had not done before. I think subconsciously he knew he was coming to the end after a long battle with congestive heart problems combined with 85 years of a full life. In that time we had he shared many stories of his life, some I knew, others were facets of a man I thought I knew.
Growing up just after the Great Depression in a large working class family, he learned the value of making use of everything, treating the environment well and helping his fellow neighbor. As a child it was survival but as an adult it was a way forward in life. These habits and his attitude were passed down to us, his children, to either continue on or abandon as we are often products of our environment and parentage.
It is easy to paint a mental picture of him as a stogy old-timer who was technology challenged, but he was quite the opposite, often composing digital artwork which he donated to the local PBS affiliate for their annual fundraiser or laboring away on his computer. He loved surfing the Internet, his movies and HDTV particularly as it became harder for him to get around. He was not only the perpetual learner, but also a perpetual teacher. He was always interested in what I was doing in my technology designs on various projects and would often research products that we talked about. Our conversations in those last few weeks centered on what I was doing in technology and sustainability and how much he wished that many of the devices today would have been around when he was young. He pondered that we might not be facing a warming planet.
What I have realized in our recent conversations was that I had latched on most to his attitude about the environment and how to not be wasteful. As I now transition into “becoming my father,” I look to instill these same values in my son in the hope that he too will look after the environment especially as the world has become more complex and technologically driven. I strive to do this in my workplace as well leading by example and mentoring my charges to the value of designing a sustainable and efficient technology solution.
Often we don’t realize just how much of our attitudes and the way we approach things really is a reflection of the influence of important people on our life whether a father, mother, uncle, teacher, employer or friend. Hopefully you are paying attention when you are mentored and paying it forward to others. This is even more important regarding sustainability as we approach what is shaping up to be an administration that is doing everything it can to undermine green technology, energy and agreements that are working to combat climate change. In order to try to keep the ground gained it will then fall to the individual to make better choices. Hopefully there are enough people who have listened. As this year wraps up and we head into uncharted waters of a radically different Presidency, only time will tell. Just don’t forget to pass it on.