Monday, June 22, 2009

R.I.P. Craig

In the relatively short amount of time I have worked within the environmental field, I’ve seen a substantial shift in mainstream America’s perceptions on what it means to be 'eco-conscience'. Environmental concerns have been gaining traction as fears about climate change and deforestation and energy grow. The number of Priuses (or would it be Prii?) now on the road and the number of reusable bags I see in the grocery store gives me hope that Americans can and will curb our carbon emissions.

But when I think about true environmentalists, I think about Ding Darling and Rachel Carson. I think about leaders who are truly passionate about the environment and the natural world around them and who strive to educate others about the great outdoors. I think about people that lead by example and have spent their life focusing on the natural world. One of the biggest environmentalists I know of is Craig Tufts.

In my few years with the National Wildlife Federation, I had the privilege of sitting three cubicles down from Craig, NWF’s chief naturalist. Craig has been with NWF for over 30 years and he’s been instrumental to the organization, bringing the FrogWatch, Wildlife Watch, and Certified Backyard Habitats programs to life.

But to be completely honest, I didn’t work with Craig much on those projects. The Craig that I know led lunchtime nature walks and had endless amounts of patience teaching me the difference between a weed and a flower. The Craig I know ran the Boston marathon more than once, and ran several ultra-marathons (FIFTY MILES!!) while I was at NWF. He measured his success not in his mile pace, but by the number of birds, animal tracks, and plant species he could identify during his races. ‘My’ Craig brought in yummy produce from his garden and would let me know when a fat groundhog was sunning itself right outside our windows, because God knows without him, I wouldn’t have been able to spot a rhino in our parking lot. I never – not once – saw Craig lose his temper or give any indication that he was having a bad day. Even though we worked on different projects, he always volunteered to help my team out.

I can’t think of anyone who has lived life more fully than Craig. No one deserves to get cancer. But I can think of very few people that have lived a healthier lifestyle than Craig, and today his fight with brain cancer has finally come to an end and it still doesn't seem fair. But he is finally at peace now and I am trying to focus on that. The environmental community owes this man quite a bit of gratitude and I hope that everyone, whether you know Craig or not, will take a minute to pray, or meditate, or contemplate the world around them today and enjoy the wonders of nature. And if there is someone that has inspired your love for the great outdoors, let them know how much they mean to you, because today is a wonderful day to say thank you.

Thank you, Craig! You have meant more to me than you will ever know and you will be truly missed.

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