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Tom Brown Jr
Metro Cafe
by Kieran Meeke
December 30th, 2003

60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Tom Brown Jr is a renowned outdoorsman and tracker who was taught by Stalking Wolf ['Grandfather'], an Apache shaman. His Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School is the largest of its kind. He has written 16 books on the wilderness and is a film consultant, most notably on The Hunted, which stars Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro.

Were you happy with The Hunted?
I was happy with parts of it. In the final analysis, I don't have much say.

Are you a violent man?
Absolutely not. That's one of the things that upset me, because I originally worked on the screenplay and I wanted to create in the movie a sense of Tommy Lee Jones being a child of the wilderness who could take care of himself - tracking skills and awareness, stuff like that. Unfortunately, much of that was removed and replaced by the chase. The bloody knife battle is something we could have done a little less with.

The average fight lasts a few seconds.
Exactly. This translated out into minutes, which would never happen.

You've spent a lot of time in the wilderness
I've been in and out of survival situations for various lengths of time but 16 months was the longest one stretch that I spent out of contact with other people.

What did you learn about yourself?
It would fill volumes. A lot of my books are written from the knowledge that I gleaned from those survival experiences. It brought me closer to the earth and a different reality than most people are used to. We work for four things in life: peace, life, joy and purpose. Living in the woods showed me that these things can only be found within oneself and not in externals. It also created in me a tremendous commitment to the environment and the earth - to save what we have left.

We perceive Americans as very wasteful.
Exactly. Attitudes are changing slowly but surely. One of two things will happen. We get real smart, real quick, or we run out of resources and we have hell to pay.I just hope it's not the latter. It always amazes me that people work in jobs that they can't stand for 48 weeks of the year, so that they can go out into nature for the other four weeks of the year - whether it's skiing or the beach. We have this love affair with the natural world yet we're so quick to defile it.

What is your purpose in life?
My purpose is to prevent the inevitable from happening - the wasteful destruction of the planet. Grandfather used to say we are a society of people who starve our grandchildren to feed our children. Many of our decisions are based on short-term greed.

Should people sell their cars?
There isn't enough wilderness left for people to move back into. But people should question everything they consume: is this the right choice? Will this benefit my grandchildren?

What's the worst thing you've seen in the wilderness?
From a tracker's point of view, following lost people, fugitives. The most appalling thing is the number of children I've found dead in the woods at the hand of other people - child rapists and killers.

This must give you cause to ponder the nature of evil. What makes people evil?
I can remember getting so angry at polluters and Grandfather used to say you cannot get angry at the individual, you have to get angry at the ignorance. A lot in the upbringing has to do with the decisions they make later.

Are you optimistic?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It's like a rollercoaster. Sometimes even war is connected to greed and convenience. We're making some horrible mistakes.

What are your thoughts on 9/11?

My brother-in law was the pilot of the second aircraft to hit the Trade Center. It's hard to come to terms with the misrepresentation of a holy book, where suicide and murder take the place of commonsense. I've a voracious appetite for holy books and I cannot find anything in any holy book that would drive human beings to kill other human beings in the name of their god.


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