Last month, I rode the train into Union Station, New Haven, Connecticut for the first time in fifty years. That was 1972, two years after Earth Day, three years after NEPA, and NFMA was not yet a twinkle in the eye of Congress. So let’s just say that much has changed since then. Fifty years before I took the train in 1972 was 1922, right after World War I and before the Dust Bowl, which remains the US’s worst environmental disaster. And fifty years from now will be 2072, which seems like a long ways away. If you think about a fifty-year span of time, you may be able to see patterns- what is a trend and what is a blip
I was in New Haven to receive an award from the Yale School of the Environment Alumni Association. As I told the students, if you work on the same thing for 50 years, chances are, somewhere along the way, someone will appreciate it (even if you have to wait a long time :)) . I was hoping to give a seminar (challenging the Coastal Elite in the hold of their Mothership, what fun!) but post-Covid they decided to move to video. This was a bit challenging for me, as they were looking for video of me doing interesting things, but I was lucky to find black and white photos. Most of my work has been not visually interesting, think Data General or later terminals, or rooms with people and flipcharts- or even piles of paper, or conference calls (pre-Zoom). I spent weeks digging through old files, remembering people, and thinking about my story and all the different ways of telling it. I am very grateful to the talented editor and producer Alana DeJoseph for spinning gold from a mess of straw.
I would never have dug into all this without the prompt from Yale, but it has been a meaningful exercise for me. I reached out in gratitude with many colleagues from the past. And it was interesting to find what bits of history are available on the internet and which are not. The human brain is all about story-telling and sense-making, and what could be more human than telling your own story?
So I’m making a request, for any of you who are so inclined, I’d be interested in posting reflective historic pieces; what did you experience? what did you learn? what is your current perspective on your experiences? what advice would you give to younger folks?
Here is a link to award write-up and the video.