This professor-geologist slouched into op-ed journalism along a career path that makes sense only in retrospect. As a high-school kid in ...
Robert M. ThorsonE-mail
May 1, 2013
Misquoting William Shakespeare: "Now is the spring of our discontent." Indeed, even as the daffodils blossom and the songbirds sing, my students at the University of Connecticut are stressing out from their end-of-semester quest for high grades.
April 17, 2013
Practically everyone has heard of the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty," and knows how it ends: "All the king's horses and all the king's men / Couldn't put Humpty together again." Indeed, many natural systems, once broken, can never be put back together again.
April 3, 2013
When was the last time you were caught red-handed? The phrase, which originated in medieval Scotland, refers to having been caught with blood on your hands after committing a murder or poaching game. Since then, it's become a popular allusion for getting caught doing something wrong with incontrovertible evidence at the scene, which makes police work easier.
March 20, 2013
A good atmosphere is easy to take for granted. This was my first thought when I read the joyous NASA press announcement that Mars "once had conditions suited for ancient life." Mars lost its opportunity for life because its atmosphere changed too much. But what about planet Earth? Though we're not in danger of losing our life-giving atmosphere, the question is: Will it be a good life?
March 6, 2013
Former surgeon general Dr. C. Everett Koop died this week at 96. During the Reagan years, he used the power of his office to wage war against the dangers of smoking. Now that he's gone, I'm wondering what he would he have done about the new public poison, excess sugar.
February 20, 2013
Sometimes, it's comforting to know that none of us are really in charge. There but for the grace of the great roulette wheel in the sky go I.
February 7, 2013
I'm not much of a bird-watcher. But I'm a devoted and appreciative observer of the common loon. Every time I see its black-and-white beauty, hear its eerie wail or watch its deep-water diving is a blessing. Each cry of the loon is precious to me.
January 23, 2013
I can hardly believe I'm writing to support public school superintendents. Their recent report "NextEd: Transforming Connecticut's Education System," sounds like a solid prescription for fixing ailing mainstream schools. I hope the implementation is going well.
January 18, 2013
"Unquenchable" is the title of Robert Glennon's scorching critique of U.S. historical water policy. The word also applies to the University of Connecticut's seemingly unlimited thirst for water.
January 9, 2013
Last year gave me my first chance to live between the tidal cycle and the disaster cycle. Though I've had personal encounters with both throughout my life, I had not lived through the rhythms involved, and therefore did not truly understand. Now I do.
December 27, 2012
My wrap-up column for the year concerns the single event that dominates all others: the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
December 12, 2012
The world will definitely not come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012, regardless of the Mayan calendar. There's no planetary Rapture in the near future, despite the wishful thinking of an apocalyptic few. For at least another billion years, Earth will spin, the sun will shine and all God's creatures will struggle against the entropy of tranquility. Thus it is written in the record of the rocks, the linear geological calendar that's been ticking for 4.55 billion years.
November 28, 2012
I have an unusual type of seasonal affective disorder, known as SAD. During these darkening days, I don't get sad at all. In fact, I find it progressively easier to extract hope from failure.
November 14, 2012
As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast in late October, we in southern New England had a week's worth of warning, including three days of increasingly accurate forecasts by U.S. Weather Service. Now, imagine stripping away all that advance notice. Instead, it was Monday afternoon, Oct. 22, and you were going about your business as usual when, all of a sudden, your life was threatened and put on hold.
October 31, 2012
Let Hurricane Sandy be our tipping point toward a better America.
October 17, 2012
As the presidential election draws near, I've become astonished at how little the environment seems to matter. Based on the three debates it sits in back of the political bus, far behind the seats for national economy, taxes, medical reform, foreign policy and the sharing of power. I'd like to see it move up to the driver's seat and take us where we need to go.
October 3, 2012
Armies don't march on empty stomachs.
September 19, 2012
I applaud my state senator, Don Williams, my colleague Bill Hosley (champion of local history) and many others hoping to require the teaching of Connecticut history in public schools. It never occurred to me that this would not be the case. Learning our history is far more important to our long-term economic well being than Huskymania and trendy development initiatives.
September 5, 2012
Say the word pollution and everyone seems to be against it. Oil-soaked seabirds. Blue-green algae. Mercury blowin' in the wind. Litter. The list is endless.
August 22, 2012
The heat is oppressive. I turn on my air conditioner. The electricity flows in from Millstone Nuclear Power near Niantic, where high-level radioactive waste steadily accumulates on the shore of Long Island Sound.
August 8, 2012
In 1981, I began a personal mission to make the world a less violent place, one kid at a time. My strategy was simple. No kid under my charge would watch a video featuring a gun on its cover. By 2005, that mission had been killed by the big guns of a popular media culture so soaked in violence that carnage had become the new normal. At least when seen through the eyes of my middle-school daughter.
July 25, 2012
The MAD principle — mutually assured destruction — brought an end to the nuclear arms race of the Cold War. I'm convinced that serious attention to MAD is the only thing that will keep us from completely trashing our planetary home.