Robert M. Thorson
This professor-geologist “slouched” into op-ed journalism along a career path that makes sense only in retrospect. As a high-school kid in the mid-1960s I was assigned to sit in “Jackass Row” by my English teacher, for what I now realize were two lifelong personality traits, strong opinions and a thick skin.
In college, I flirted with deep ecology before the word was invented, learning to see the world philosophically from Nature’s eye. In graduate school, I honed my analytical skills while writing a dissertation about glaciology and crustal geophysics.
For the last three decades I have been professing science, often to non-science students. Along the way, my wife and I raised four children whose educational needs forced me into the politics of disability, nature-versus-nurture, and the toxicity of American youth culture. As they grew up, I wrote a few books about stone walls that did quite well, and, in the process, learned the true meaning of “publish or perish.”
One day, a veteran journalist recruited me to submit articles to the major regional newspapers, especially the Courant. All were published. The next thing you know, I was on the Courant’s Board of Contributors to Place. Soon, I was the first scientist to write a regular op-ed columnist for the Courant. That was more than three years ago.
My columns reflect the opinions of a lifelong natural scientist who doubles as husband, father and teacher. They are voluntary contributions to public service that, for me, are less boring than meetings and less painful than politics. They bristle with intellectual independence because the security of my day job – a tenured full professor – insulates me from political and collegial revenge. Respect for nature -- including human nature – is a recurring theme. But neither I, nor you, know what will come next.