Robert Redford was five years old when his grandfather handed him a fishing rod, a gun and a challenge to roam wild across the lakes, fields and forests of the Texas hill country. So began a life of discovery--and a life-long love affair with the great outdoors--for a boy the world would come to know as the Sundance Kid.
In my own lifetime, no one anywhere has done more to showcase the natural splendor of our country, or to inspire us with the natural wonder of our world, than Bob.
Throughout his acting career, he has told the stories that connect American life to the land of our birth, the land of our ancestors, the land of our common dreams. And, with his telling of each story, he has found a way to remind us that we are all connected to this great land, all indebted to it for all it provides.
What Bob has done for our environment on the silver screen alone is more than enough to earn him this year's Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Conservation Voters.
That work, though, is just the beginning.
For more than four decades, Bob has raised his voice to protect special places across this country, from the mountains of Appalachia, to the Red Rocks of Utah; from the Alaska tundra to the Gulf of Mexico. He has fought tirelessly and relentlessly for clean air, fresh water and healthy wildlife. And he has been a global force against a global scourge, standing up and speaking out against the climate change that is ravaging our planet and threatening us all.
It didn't have to be this way. Bob could have used his popularity and fame to advance any of dozens of worthwhile causes. He could have simply decided to kick back, check out and enjoy a life of relative ease, far from the slings and arrows of public advocacy work.
Instead, he has spent his life in the lion's den, standing up to some of the biggest corporate bullies and wealthiest corporate polluters anywhere on Earth. The chemical companies, refiners and power plant operators. Big Oil, Big Ag, commercial fishing fleets and King Coal.
Anyone determined to defile our resources for profit or gain has known, for decades, that they run the risk of crossing swords with Robert Redford, and the legion of Americans who listen to him and believe what he says.
No door is closed to Robert Redford--from the boardrooms of corporate America to the Oval Office. And when he opens the door, the rest of us come in, because we know what we say will be heard.
When Bob sends an email, people open it. When he pens an oped, people read it. And when he picks up the phone, people answer it. That's the kind of national throw weight Bob has attained.
Those of us in the environmental movement, and future generations across this country, are all the better for this powerful voice and all he has accomplished.
A few weeks back, Bob was in Washington for the 40th anniversary of the Watergate scandal he helped bring to life in one of his greatest films, "All the President's Men." A staffer in the Washington offices of the Natural Resources Defense Council ran into Bob on the street and began thanking him for his help on the BP oil spill, the Keystone XL pipeline, the clean air fight in Congress, climate change.
"Hey," Bob replied, "there's more work to do."
That, to me, sums up Robert Redford's approach.
After forty years of standing up for nature, forty years of progress, he's still looking forward. Still focused on the work we have to do. Still driven by that same passion that first stirred him as a boy in the Texas hills.
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.