‘The realization is beginning to hit that Earth is all there is’

July 17, 2013 — Campus Highlights



Shining through professor of biology Barbara Collins’ teaching and her 2012 memoir, You Lead a Mean Trail: Life Adventures and Fifty Years of Teaching, is a love of the varieties of land and life that this planet offers.

(Purchase a copy of Dr. Collins’ memoir.)

The book is a place to learn not only about wildflowers, but also tarantulas, columnar cacti, ground squirrels and how to hunt mushrooms for food. Of a lake at Mount Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies, she wrote that the “path leading down … was also covered with my favorite fuzzy anemones. It was impossible to think of taking pictures of them all. Unfortunately, a camera cannot duplicate the incredible beauty that we see with the human eye.”

With her husband of 58 years, Larry, at her side, Barbara Collins died in her sleep the night of April 30 at the age of 84.

With her husband of 58 years, Larry, at her side, Barbara Collins died in her sleep the night of April 30 at the age of 84.


What did it mean for Collins to love the Earth?

Among other things, it meant enlisting students to sell T-shirts and bumper stickers and to speak at Thousand Oaks city hall as part of a successful campaign to preserve Wildwood Mesa. It meant being wise with energy and encouraging others to work for a future that human beings could sustain.

The following excerpt from a speech she gave at the 1991 Colloquium of Scholars Banquet could have been written in 2013. It was published in CLU Magazine’s predecessor, The Kingsmen Quarterly. 

When will we listen?

During her talk, Dr. Collins shared some frightening information regarding the current status of the Earth’s environment. But in closing, she expressed hope in the progress that individuals could make in solving today’s pressing environmental issues. —editor’s note from Summer 1991

Our country needs to develop alternative sources of energy, long-lasting and nonpolluting. But there are also things that we as individuals can do. We need to become conscious of fuel use. We need to begin driving less and car pool more. Use solar heat when possible. Use your air conditioner and dishwasher less. Hang the clothes out. Insulate your home. These are all things that each person can do. But above all, we need to educate our youth, because they are the ones who will inherit the Earth.

Yes, there are good things that are going on. More and more people are becoming involved. Recycling is becoming part of the norm, and gradually we are becoming more conscious of our water and our land. The realization is beginning to hit that Earth is all there is. There are no new frontiers to be conquered. Efforts are being made to save endangered species. Some habitat destruction has been stopped. We need to start living as though we are all part of one whole.

Maybe the idea of Spaceship Earth is not a bad one. We all need to work together for the future. We need to work for a sustainable world that will be livable for our children and grandchildren. Join an environmental group. Fight for a cause. What we do in the next 10 to 20 years will determine the kind of legacy that we leave behind for our children.

We must begin to steer by the stars rather than by the lights of a passing ship. And remember, as in the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


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