Written by Andy Goldman-Gray
Last week my Stepdad, Bill Gray passed away at the age of 84. He was one of my two dads who helped instill a love, reverence and sense of responsibility to our natural places. Along with my dad Pete Goldman, they taught me that there’s not just one right way to engage in stewardship of nature.
My two dads (name copped from an underrated sitcom from the 80s) couldn’t be more different. Pete is a naturalist, a biology and ecology professor, and an environmentalists environmentalist. He lives small—meaning he leaves a very small footprint for his existence. He is a vegan, walks almost everywhere, uses solar energy, takes cold showers, and tries to live harmoniously with the outdoors. I think my tendency to capture and release spiders in my house, rather than smooshing them, comes directly from Pete.
Bill was a technologist. He was an engineer turned software engineer. He believed in the power of human ingenuity to solve any problem we face. He was an early convert to the “electrify everything” movement and was the first person I knew who bought an electric car. While not a stereotypically outdoorsy person, he introduced me to fishing, the joys of car camping, and how to think about systems and processes. I am grateful for the way Bill taught me to examine something dispassionately and figure out what makes it tick.
My two dads weren’t similar in approach, but they are very similar in the values they were guided by in the care for our shared outdoor places. They both believe that we have a responsibility to leave things better than they are and that our legacy will be measured by the ability for our grandkids to enjoy the things that we enjoy—wide open spaces, healthy flora and fauna, clean air and water and access to those places by people who love them.
My two dads (and my mom, of course!) are major influences in my work with Upstream. Two different people, two different outlooks on how to care for our places, two approaches to their love of place, but one unifying value.
I have learned important lessons from each, and I hope I can inspire others to see that no matter how we approach stewardship and care for place, we can use our love of Minnesota to bring us together.