Letter to the Editor: Grandpa Makes it Personal

The author as a child. Photo courtesy of author

As you can see from the photograph, I wasn’t always an angry guy—it’s not a genetic characteristic. My old UConn friend Joe (the Psychologist) tells me anger can also be a result of “environmental factors”. Well, yeah. My environment is under siege, so I think outrage is an appropriate response. In fact, it’s my biological imperative to fight for survival. Look again at these 1950s Connecticut woods. I’m not dismissing the smog and the DDT, but it is fall here, and winter is coming right on schedule. This past December 3rd, 2020, I surprised turtles still sunning themselves on logs. In the photo there is no bittersweet strangling those trees, no barberry hosting deer ticks, no wooly adelgids, phragmites or two-headed frogs. Invasive species each have an effect like a pandemic, and should be treated with similar alarm. And the once insidious, now blatantly obvious, temperature rise is far worse. That happy kid who once played hero in the bare trees has watched continuing deterioration of the Earth despite all the efforts that have been made.

I’ve been sore since the late 60s. That’s me as a freshman in 1967 giving the peace sign in Gulley Hall, assuming that sensible, ethical elders would make the world a better place when it was obvious it was not yet good enough. What followed were 4 years of busing to anti-war demonstrations in Washington DC, sleeping on church floors and dodging tear gas, marching the streets of New Haven during Bobby Seale’s Black Panther trial, “Bloody Tuesday” – where students and faculty were hit in the head and 21 arrested on this campus. Countless efforts at UConn to change the world and the University, including the first Earth Day in 1970.

The author at a UConn sit-in in 1967. Photo courtesy of author

Hello, UConn 2021 – I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir here. And I know my actions genuinely conserve parts of our world. The work has been real and gives me real satisfaction. It just hasn’t been enough (all of this kind of writing too hasn’t been enough). So I’m through being merely a good environmental citizen. That’s what each of us has done since the first Earth Day, since Rachel Carson, since TR went camping with Muir in the snow in 1903. “Somebody else” is not going to take care of it.

No, I don’t want to be the leader, the talking head, most newsworthy, most progressive Green Person. There’s a ballfield where the big things get done by those who have the constitution for it. I’ve been a benchwarmer (when I wasn’t out alone happily catching fish). But now with my season coming to a close, I swing for the fences, expand the reach of my own mind and heart outward. I’ve been to several local and statewide demonstrations and I’m involved with Extinction Rebellion. Pre-virus I “advised” Fridays for Future at UConn a bit (I wish I could still march and yell in the streets). My 2019 exhibit at the Dodd Center, “Dayglo and Napalm”, was an attempt to show you the enormous power you have, power that UConn students effectively used once upon a time. Now retired, I volunteered for a season at a National Park. I’m the Steward of a local conservation property, am active in Trout Unlimited. I use words, art, music, other bully pulpits, to encourage others (you) to do more than I can. I’m still angry. This might be as driven as I’ve ever been, strangely enough. It surprises me too. Forgive me for being so personal; it IS personal. It’s not going to be my damn fault.


George Jacobi

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