Blog Post

Walking in the Footprints of Dinosaurs, Childhood Nature Trauma, and other thoughts from Yale

I had the great pleasure to speak on a panel last week as part of the nationwide Focus the Nation series. Billed as the largest campus teach-in in U.S. history with events at over 1,000 colleges and universities, it was timed to inject climate change into local, state, and national political debates in the thick of the presidential primary season. A student group at Yale University invited me to speak, and I was joined by a green chemist, an artist, a pastor, and a mayor -- kind, accomplished, insightful people who had a lot to share. Our topic was environmental sustainability, what are the needs that we see from our vantage points in our various jobs, and what today's students can do about it in their careers. Among the insights shared by several panel members were how their careers were shaped by childhood experiences with nature -- and by being traumatized by destructive land development. Myself, I riffed on green building and ethics.
The panel, from left to right as shown in the image:
  • Bill Finch – Mayor of Bridgeport, former Chair of the Environment Committee in the Connecticut State Legislature
  • Paul Anastas, Ph.D. – Scientist, Director of the Center for Green Chemistry and Green Engineering, Professor in the Practice of Green Chemistry, Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
  • Tristan Korthals Altes – Journalist, Managing Editor of Environmental Building News
  • Lillian Ball – New York-based artist and environmental activist
  • Rev. Tom Carr – Pastor, Co-Founder and Co-chair of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, Pastor of the First Baptist church in West Hartford.
  • The panel was moderated by Dean Gus Speth of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
I could have hung out talking with this sextet for much longer than our allotted hour and half or so. Fortunately, I can revisit it thanks to an audience member who shared what she got on her digital voice recorder. The sound is bootleg-quality but audible.
  • Introduction to the panel by Dean Speth, and introduction to Dr. Anastas (8:43)
  • Dr. Paul Anastas (8:33)
  • Lillian Ball – with intro from Dean Speth (9:23)
  • Rev. Tom Carr – with intro from Dean Speth (15:17)
  • Mayor Bill Finch – with intro from Dean Speth (15:15)
  • Tristan Korthals Altes – with intro from Dean Speth (10:35)
  • Audience question, and Bill Finch and Lillian Ball on educating children (5:47)
  • Audience rumination, and Tristan Korthals Altes on recognizing children's wisdom (4:02)
  • Audience question, and Paul Anastas on communicating with climate change doubters (3:20)
What about the dinosaur footprints mentioned in the title of this post? On the way down to Yale, we stopped in Holyoke, Massachusetts, at the Dinosaur Footprints park, sandwiched between Route 5 and the Connecticut River, and just a few minutes off of I-91's Exit 18. For free admission and a 10-minute stop on the side of a major highway, you can go back 190 million years and physically walk in the fossilized footprints of Eubrontes giganteus and friends. On the drive south from Exit 18, you'll also notice a 146-MW power plant burning 1,200 tons of coal daily. Will we become like the dinosaurs by burning them? Hmmm.

Published February 4, 2008

(2008, February 4). Walking in the Footprints of Dinosaurs, Childhood Nature Trauma, and other thoughts from Yale. Retrieved from

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