Fair Horizon Press, 2002
ISBN: 0-9710079-0-X

K eep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside golden door.”

         These words are the foundation of our country, emblazed upon the Statue of Liberty, they stand proud. To other countries, we stand proud with our freedom, we welcome their poor, and we feed their hungry. But as everyone knows, when you give something, you also lose something, too. And that’s what Mary Lou and John Tanton have spent their life preserving: Our America.
        Their sense of place was important from the very beginning. Both raised on family farms, the Tantons learned early the gratitude we owe the land and the planet we inhabit. This love for the land set a passionate foundation because it was their stepping ground for a fight that they continue today. The fight for preservation of our American country, for our people, for all the things we stand for. It takes a deep love for the land to go to the places the Tantons have been. This love of country has placed them at the center of a heated controversy over immigration, population, and the environment. They pioneered the movement to examine the impact of our immigration policy on population growth, and, in the process, they put a human face on the immigration reform movement. The Tantons helped found the Federation for American Immigration Reform in 1979, and have remained guiding lights to not only the immigration reform movement, but to all citizens hoping to make a difference in their country.
        In American conservation, it takes strength of character, strength of personality, and courage to make a difference. Without these things, author and activist John Rohe would have had nothing to fill these pages with. The book traces the Tantons’ personal histories and how those experiences informed their political development and activism, with childhoods on the farm leading them to deep understanding of and concern for the environment and the threat of overpopulation. For the Tantons, conservation isn’t just a concept or even an ideal. It’s a passion, and one worth fighting for.
        The power of art is salient in every crevice of life, they remind us. In the birds, the trees, the ground upon which we walk. We can see art in the cycle of the fields, the waning of the moon, the shape of summer clouds. Our America is the art upon which all of us breathe, the clay beneath our toes, the music of our lungs. But our America is bleeding like a painting left out in the rain. The colors of our America are running off the canvas faster than we can save it. When all the color is gone, just where will we be. Where will we find the art that creeps beyond our own skin. Our canvas is just as important as the brush in our hands.
        In a time when celebrity status is the premise of value, American priorities are troubled and pretentious. Water shortages, streams unsafe for human or aquatic life, polluted beaches, urban sprawl, loss of open space, degraded ground waters, loss of wildlife, and increasing divisiveness among groups is far from most of our thoughts. We think about bigger houses, 401ks, family vacations. But what will all of this mean without the preservation of our lands. This thought has always been at the forefront of the minds of Tantons. The Tantons have us revisit the relationship between liberty and equality because in a changing world we have to make room for our changing selves. “Liberty and equality are related to each other much like investment income is related to security,” they say. “Security comes only at the expense of income, and vice versa. Liberty succumbs to the gravity of equality. And equality shoulders the weight of liberty.” It’s what consumes their thoughts during long nights and what motivates them to keep the true colors of America from fading. Our cycles are persistent. We are caught in a trap that is leading us to a country without borders. A country where the English language is no longer honored; a country where God is a trend and liberty a fad. Our true heroes are the ones that realize this erosion and want to do something about it.
        This book is profound not only because of its subjects, but because of its creator as well. The author uses an original approach to his biography. And with it, the reader is able to get a closer look at the “people” behind the personalities. At the beginning of each chapter, Mr. Rohe asks the Tantons probing questions that examine their character and the subject of conservation. Questions such as: Which ideas are most endangered by the increasing global population? To which, Mary Lou had this to say: Perhaps we take our quality of life blessings too much for granted; freedom to move about in relative safety, and to express ourselves.
        The quality of this biography lies right here. Biographies are often mere timelines left to the hands of chronology, the grayness of dates, without the color of anything personal. But this author has made sure that we as readers are able to care about our subject and about the people who have carved their lives in response to it. In his words, we are given A Crash Course on Population. In my words, he’s given people A Crash Course on People.
        Books are known for taking us to places we’ve never seen; for introducing us to people we’ve never known. This book makes us wonder about American fertility rates, the problem of immigration, the conservation of our lands and soils. It makes us wonder how the Tantons get up every day and keep pushing forward. But more than that, this book serves to remind us still of the very things we already know. With the help of the author Mr. Rohe and the dedication of the Tantons, we are reminded of our America and our responsibility to it. We are reminded of our power as artists, as people living upon the canvas of America.