Alex Hildebrand could have taught the Occupy folks a thing or two about effective activism.
The Manteca farmer who passed away Monday at age 98 was able to help bring about change in government policy not by picketing, shouting down opponents, speaking in sound bites, occupying public spaces or shutting down ports.
Nor did he have to be part of the moneyed establishment or the power structure.
Instead, he did it the old school and proven way of exercising his basic right as an American to diligently chip away by working within the system. Some may call it employing the tools of grassroots government. Others may call it the act of reasoned persuasion.
Whatever the case, Hildebrand did leave his mark on California water policy although there were times he surely felt like Don Quixote.
It goes without saying that Hildebrand didn’t see his reasoned approach to water put in place during his lifetime. And what he envisioned as the best solution may never be implemented in its entirety and most of it may get pushed to the wayside.
But he did change the course of the debate. And even if in the overall scheme of things it was a minute adjustment, any movement toward a more balanced and rational approach to water is good for California and its future.
Hildebrand’s tireless pragmatic approach of trying to balance all concerns – food production, urban uses, and the environment – won’t be remembered but the change he pursued will benefit generations to come.
Hildebrand didn’t shout. Hildebrand didn’t grandstand. What Hildebrand did was educate and reason with a level of patience that would impress Job.
Protests per se rarely accomplish anything. And nothing positive comes from alienating people you supposedly are trying to persuade to see things differently.
What we as Americans often forget in the non-stop media circus available on cable and the Internet is that the true and lasting forces of change aren’t made by those participating in flash moments but those who go the distance and toil with the plodding consistency of pack mules and the determination of an underdog.
Hildebrand was alarmed by most people’s indifference or lack of understanding about water issues and how our ability to control, move and conserve water is what made this state’s economy and even aspects of the environment as we know it today. Californians’ collective demand for change in water policy lasts only until rain and snow breaks the back of a drought or water recedes from a flood.
He did not let that discourage him.
Instead, he kept moving forward against all odds to make his voice heard in the great din and clamor of water politics.
What drove him was the desire to do what those of generations before him did – leave a future for those that will walk this earth long after he’s departed.
And he understood lasting change doesn’t come from waving signs, conducting sit ins, or disrupting society. Instead it comes from working within the framework of society to make society better.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.