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06/05/22 01:47 PM #94    


Frances Hagberg (Graham)

Writing from Minnesota at this time: I’ve read with interest, sadness, appreciation and frustration the comments about science and the environment. There’s a weariness on reading too. Thank you to those who have taken the time and effort in writing and presenting your views.  Here are a couple random additions to the discussion.

In New Mexico in 2020-21 winter I found  beautiful dying large song birds on my property. I held some in my hands, frustrated there seemed no way to rescue or save them. Horrible.That year Arizona was burning. Then Colorado. Smoke dimmed the sun on some days.The birds were dehydrated and when it got cold they fell from branches and died by the thousands in New Mexico that year.

I haven’t seen those beauties since. My birdseed lasts way longer than it used to in New Mexico and the finches have disappeared from both Minnesota and New Mexico at my feeders. Now the cardinals haven’t been back since the bird flu hit Minnesota. (That was before the fires in New Mexico).

Something awful beyond words is happening no matter who says what.

I’ve wept more than once over seeing fewer bees, bumblebees, insects of all kinds and I miss the song birds and the families of finches. I have a hard time watching  PBS nature shows.

The fireflies seem few and far between in Minnesota. The weather is uglier and meaner.  With the bird flu here there’s been death of all sorts in raptors and domestic flocks. Millions of deaths. I am not blaming it on any one phenomenon but something about the weather has become fearsome and loathsome in the midst of all that I personally witness in Minnesota and New Mexico. Minnesota is way hotter than it used to be – look at the statistics.

My physical world has changed so much. In New Mexico we have not had the monsoons anymore for a few years (such a funny term for short afternoon rains in August and September in the mountains).

Louise Erdrich wrote of old Natives sitting silently after their forests had been felled. Knowing there was nothing they could do.

How does seeing the difference between the nature of our childhood and what we now have make us feel? Powerless? That our own deaths are closer at hand? What can we do? Can we at least admit to our powerlessness to each other? (Not a very Oberlin-idea grant you). Is there something we can do? Something meaningful and engaging to silent members of the class too?

We are now rather on the old side of life, fellow Class of ’68 writers. I appreciate maintaining vigor in thought and discussion. I do. Yet, we are largely more outside the wheels of power than ever. We have turned over what we’ve created largely to others.  That doesn’t mean we can’t speak and matter.

At the same time I feel like many of us are as much strangers to one another as we were when we were young. Yes I hear individual “voices” in what people write and I recognize their positions. (Bernie’s comes to mind).

Is it possible we might make a bigger difference in each other’s lives and hence in others if we somehow overcame showing up merely as intellectual points of view? (I wonder how Thich Nhat Hanh would have reacted to the discussion in this forum – he who aggravated the North and South Vietnamese regimes enough to have to repair to France).

When I read the words of the men writing, I see few if any words that come from the heart. The anguish of what we see happening is horrible.

I do not understand Dick Hobby’s position in part because it seems to simply say “Do nothing unless there is 100 percent unanimity” – which is unachievable.  His favored scientist has a bent toward disagreeing with the larger more established group of scientists. And he seems satisfied to stop there. Would you have us do nothing about anything, I wonder.

I have sorted out over time as much as possible for me not getting caught up in the kick that righteous anger can provide. I favor helpful strategies for finding emotional resilience in the personal and bigger strategies that tend to be useful in the world of political, enviromental and social action.

As to signing petitions:

I am one of those people who is willing to take action based on what “may” make a difference AND at the same time I am one of those people who recognizes that it is foolish to take a position just because feels better than doing nothing. Taking action for a purpose has to have support in the universe of facts to justify the opportunity value of not doing something else. In addition, and equally important, is the question of whether I am in a solid position to justify second guessing someone else who has authority in the first place. There can be so much looking over the shoulder of someone in a position of authority that it becomes sport.  Even if my own position may be better, not everything should be changed by external consensus. It's a balancing act.

None of us has endless amounts of energy. Age 75 seems for me a time of what comes next for the remainder of my life. (After all I have several horses, and I see that riding may not be the best activity for me anymore. I thought I’d be able to ride into much older age from others I’ve known who have done so, but I am questioning myself, and it is hard).

In other words I’m not sure the choices I have made so far should remain unexamined for the future. I’m not sure it’s wise for me to think I know enough to tell Oberlin how they should invest. I want to do things that matter. Contribute where it can make a difference. I am puzzled, perplexed and sad about what I see. How do we deal with the mundane day-to-day including that the deli counter uses so much plastic (I agree with Rich about how we’ve been misled)? My world is so beautiful and yet so fragile. I need all the advice I can get that helps me live well into the uncertain future. Do we listen well enough? Do we hear ourselves?

Sincerely, Frankie Graham

06/05/22 02:01 PM #95    


Ralph Shapira

Thank you Frances for your troubling, thoughtful reflections.

06/05/22 03:41 PM #96    


Richard Zitrin

Thank you, Frankie,so much, for this thoughtful post. And warm regards. - R

06/06/22 08:01 AM #97    

Jean Poppei (Eisenberg)

I’m grateful for your post, Frances. Thank you.


06/06/22 01:05 PM #98    

Barry Mallis

I was very moved by your thoughts and insights, Frances. Perhaps I can conjure some small ray of sunshine in an attempt to stem the bad news...about birds. Here in central Arizona, at about 4,300', we have seen birds on our feeders that we never before notices. Habitats on the move? 
We read with deeply troubled feelings SW Audubon's messages about the dieoff of birds in NM. And yet, about two years later, we have Bullock's orioles, northern cardinals, black chin and Anna's hummers, purple finches, canyon towhees and much more. Some are first-time visitors to our tubes and platforms. Perhaps they are all canaries in the coal mine of severe, irredeemable drought, come to pay last respects to us humans. In the meantime, Melanie and I do our best to provide water and seed while hoping for relief from the so-called monsoon. Thank you for your reflections. They certainly meant a lot to me.



06/06/22 08:22 PM #99    


Robert Wolfe

Thank you for your heart-felt words and thoughts. I, too, often feel the anguish of our biosphere and shed tears for it. Our heart helps us feel and be aware of problems and can tell us to act. Our heart often tells us how to act with other individual people. But our intellect is often essential for finding solutions to the problems that our heart alerts us to. 

Do any remember the Mahoning River in north east Ohio that was a fire hazard because of all the toxic materials that were dumped into it? It is now a relatively pristine park area with clean water, forests, and trails. Thanks to the Clean Water Act and local activism. See,Warren%20to%20New%20Castle%2C%20Pennsylvania.

Do any of us remember walking around Pittsburg, New York City, or Los Angeles in the 1960s and not being able to see mountains in the distance and finding that our clothing was grimy from pollution at the end of the day? Those cities now have mostly environmentally pleasant neighborhoods to live and walk in. Thanks to the Clean Air Act. See

With age, I have become much more aware of my failings and limitations. But I find that it is enjoyable to savor some true successes and to look for new ways to contribute. 

I share two personal "successes" below:

Jan and I installed solar panels over a decade ago and produce slightly more electricity than our house uses. Detroit Edison is furious about people like us and still wins many battles in their fight to control our energy use. But we are slowly winning the war. Join us! It is already much more than a movement and is now becoming an unstoppable force.

I spoke at a public discussion forum about closing down a nearby dirty nuclear power plant several years ago, rather than letting Detroit Edison build another plant on top of the remains of the old one. I was but one small voice among a few, but the new plant was not built.

Perhaps talking about "successes" might help more of them blossom.


06/06/22 11:17 PM #100    


Daniel Miller

Good on Frankie and Wolfie.  Both of you are saying things that need to said, and pointing to useful actions that can be taken.

06/07/22 07:45 AM #101    


Liz Ryan (Cole)

might sharing successes be the focus of a discussion when next we meet in Oberlin? and, because we need many more successes, looking for successes to build on?  


06/07/22 11:36 AM #102    


Ted Morgan

I join others in thanking you, Frankie.  Very moving words!  And while (now) living in a beautiful part of New Hampshire, I mourn the fact that I can no longer sit on our screen porch in the evenings listening to the 2-4 wood thrushes that until this year were audible --their aggregate numbers now halved, mostly by human development as we continue to chase the "good life."  The same forces that feed global warming and the death rate from forest fires.  I'm pretty sure many of us grieve for our planet; it's virtually a part of daily life these days.  Yes, the beauty (and the new migrating birds --thanks Barry) is still so remarkable, so life affirming, yet underneath is this the awareness of destruction, decline and death (including our own).  I trust others have read Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction.

06/07/22 01:22 PM #103    


Dick Hobby


First I would like to thank you, Robert Wolfe, for your valiant work in shutting down the nuclear power plant!  Bravo!  As you know my approach is to read carefully the arguments and ideas on both sides and then see which side has the better evidence and reasoning.  The down side of nuclear is much greater than the up side so I would phase out all existing nuclear plants and certainly build no more.  Anyway thank you, Robert, for your excellent work in shutting down that nuclear plant.

Which leads me to responding to Frances Hagberg Graham's statement:  "I do not understand Dick Hobby’s position in part because it seems to simply say “Do nothing unless there is 100 percent unanimity” – which is unachievable.  His favored scientist has a bent toward disagreeing with the larger more established group of scientists. And he seems satisfied to stop there. Would you have us do nothing about anything, I wonder."

On the contrary, Frances, I am very much in favor of action about everything!  I like to read carefully both sides and then decide which action to take or recommend.  There will never be unanimity on any issue as human beings are always at odds with each other.  So unanimity is not my goal and it is impossible anyway.  I simply study each issue carefully and then arrive at what I see as the side having the better evidence and then say:  take action!  For example:

1   shut down all nuclear power plants and build no new ones as nuclear is much too dangerous

2   use lots of coal and build more coal power plants as it is plentiful and can now be burned cleanly

3   continue to use oil and gas

    I hope, Frances, I have clarified things for you.

Best wishes,



06/08/22 08:31 AM #104    


Herbert Ziegler

Thank you, Frankie, for your heartfelt comments. As always, you are thoughtful and articulate, and without fear of revealing your true self. I confess that I am so involved in myself that I have little time or bandwidth for taking action on anything. (Although I am proud to say I installed solar panels on my roof six years ago.) 

What I am most thankful for from my Oberlin experience, other than good friends and feelings of camaraderie with all classmates, is learning how to think critically. This is a complex skill I am still working on that requires thoughtfulness; curiosity; philosophical, scientific, and humanitarian knowledge; compassion; creativity; travel; openess; careful analysis; and, especially in this toxic political climate, resistance to conspiracy thinking.

It seems that some brains are wired for conspiracy thinking, but like everything else about who we are as individuals, both nature and nurture can take us there. Although conspiracies exist, they do not explain everything, and positing them without real or well reasoned evidence does not make them so. I'll stop here: this is how my brain works. I will end up talking about everything that pops into my head. Glad to see an active discussion here. I miss snack bar and late night dorm discussions (not to mention class discussions). I look forward to seeing as many of you as passive at the reunion next year.




06/08/22 09:13 PM #105    


Ralph Shapira

I just posted on my profile my idyllic story of growing up in the wilderness of the Western Pennsylvania Appalachians.  It’s a paean to nature with an optimistic aspect — it describes the great re-wilding of the mountains since I first lived there 70 years ago.  It’s only a few pages long, and I hope some of you might enjoy it.  I would welcome any comments.


06/09/22 11:09 AM #106    


Tom Thomas ('69)

Hi, Ralph! So that members of the classes of 1967 and 1969 will also be able to read your post, I've inserted a couple of photos from your profile and added the story to our new website for the projected 2023 cluster reunion, It's in the Recent Publications section. Twenty-three alumni from 1968 have joined the new site so far, and of course you're invited to sign up as well. We hope to have ten times that many by the time the reunion takes place a year from now.

06/09/22 11:17 AM #107    


Ralph Shapira

I've gotten some generous comments from classmates on the growing-up-in-the-country piece that I posted to my profile.  I've also just added some pics from that long-ago time to my photos.  I'm having a devil of a time getting the pics in the order I want them, but they're there.

06/10/22 04:53 AM #108    


Richard Zitrin

Tom, great hat! it looks, well, OLD!

06/14/22 09:04 AM #109    


Daniel Lesnick

Dear Frankie – I've been following the "discussion" involving Dick Hobby and a few of our other classmates, and I greatly appreciated your humanizing contribution.

To me, there’s no question but that issues relating to climate change will never be fully settled or agreed upon in our class pages – or anywhere else. Moreover, climate change is obviously just one of myriad issues about which the people of this nation (and many other nations) are irreconcilably divided.

You raise the question of what one can do that may make a difference for the better. And (if I read you correctly) you suggest that our responses should include more that comes from the heart and less from a need to defeat an opponent in an argument. I agree.

I have never been able to heavily devote myself to the political activism that was emblematic of Oberlin in our time there. Voltaire's Candide has been more my style – that of cultivating my own garden, or to be a bit more precise, doing what I can close to home rather than taking on the world. As I look back on my life, I can understand that this is why I became a history professor. While I loved, loved, loved the research and conveying of information I did in the fields of medieval and Renaissance history, my greatest professional love was using historical material to help students access, appreciate, and actually enjoy their own analytical thinking. (I no longer feel comfortable using the term "critical thinking" because "critical" now seems to be misused to feed current-day "oppositionalism".)

A couple of years ago, in light of Trump's and his followers' ridiculous claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, I found myself bothered – or perhaps I should say puzzled. My impulse was not to join those who tried to prove them wrong; I believed this would be a fruitless endeavor, since valid proofs would fall on deaf ears. Rather, I wanted to try to understand WHY 74 million people voted for Trump in 2020 election and WHY 35%-40% of the adult U.S. population would actually believe the big lie. So, I spent some months exploring and writing about the WHY. If you are interested in this exploration of the broader causes of major current issues/problems facing us, I invite you to read my essay (18 type-written pages) at

Best regards,

Dan Lesnick

P.S. Quite a few years ago, when I first became a hospice volunteer, I observed that as people grow older and physically (and perhaps mentally) less able and eventually may be approaching the end of life, their world becomes smaller and smaller until, close to the very end, it may be no larger than the area immediately surrounding their bed. I think that, as I find myself aging, this awareness is part of what motivates me to try to understand the broader, wider-world causes of those frightful changes we see, read about, and experience.

06/14/22 11:33 AM #110    


Ralph Shapira

I just posted chapter 2 of my autobio on my Classmate Profiles page.  It includes a good story about our beloved friend and leader Paul Safyan, a high school classmate.  Next up will be the Oberlin chapter.

06/15/22 08:08 AM #111    

Peter Griswold

Recommended reading - I just read Ralph Shapira's second chapter of his autobiography which is posted under his name in Classmate Profiles - funny in  places, revealing in others but most importantly, a meaningful story about a time in his life when he, like the rest of us, was navigating the path into adulthood, achieving a degree of independence, becoming aware of his vulnerabilities, and enjoying successes. The swimming meet and the sweatshirt stories are classics.  Thanks for sharing your great memories, Ralph.  

06/15/22 02:32 PM #112    


Robert Baker

Dan Lesnick's article is really an excellent analysis of how we got to our current political situation, and it raises the important questions that need to be answered for us to get out of it. Although it does not address the powerfully divisive issues of racism and sexism, those issues are partially driven by the economic issues he does raise. I think he's right that minds will not begin to change by having facts thrown at them; but that raises the question of how those minds do change on racial, religious and gender issues. Addressing the questions Dan raises is a necessary, but not sufficient, solution to our current political quagmire. Racism and sexism are anathema to a liberal democracy, and must be addressed in a way that wins the hearts and minds of the vast majority of citizens. Together with the economic suggestions Dan makes, we could then make headway against the anti-democratic beliefs to which so many now subscribe (and encouraged by Trump, the Koch brothers, and other billionaires in their own self-interest)). The lack of social interest and selfish philosophy of Ayn Rand, which dominates much of society, needs to be fought by examples of altruism and compassion for our fellow citizens. 

06/16/22 06:50 AM #113    


Anne Ashcraft (Maher)

Ralph Shapira's celebratory memoirs of a childhood spent idling in the loveliness of the Appalachian countryside...sensitively written, vibrant. Kudos, Ralph.

06/18/22 11:49 AM #114    


Ralph Shapira

I have just posted to my Classmate Profile Chapter 3 of my autobio about my four years at Oberlin.  I hope you won't be overly shocked by one of my longest held secrets -- the predatory actions of one of our most prominent professors towards me.  I wonder whether any of you had similar experiences . . .  those were very different times than these. 

06/20/22 10:13 AM #115    


Daniel Lesnick

Thanks to Robert Baker for his generous and constructive comments on my essay. I confess to limited understanding of the complexities of racism and sexism, but I'm confident that he is correct about the important role of "altruism and compassion for our fellow citizens" in the fight against these indecent, anti-democratic scourges. And, having just now read his Profile Questions and Answers, I greatly respect him for having devoted an enormous part of his life to putting these ideals into very concrete and highly impactful practice.

06/21/22 03:27 PM #116    


Richard Zitrin

In addition to his abiding basketball skills, Bob Baker has for so many decades been a champion of truly equitable justice!

06/21/22 07:24 PM #117    


Ralph Shapira

Just posted Chapter 4 on my seven years in Berkeley on my Classmate Profile page.  There won't be another for a while -- my 27 year legal career and family life is a lot to get my arms around.  Thanks to those who have posted nice comments on my page.

06/21/22 08:13 PM #118    


John Robinson

“Just read chapter 2 of Ralph Shapira’s autobiography on his profile page, and am looking forward to the next thrilling episode with a mixture of equal parts fear and fascination. Will names be named, and if so can I get out of town ahead of the posse? Will the events that culminated in the great Dascomb ice cream raffle and the dispute with the chaplin come up? Will his sneakers receive their just, though smelly, due, and how will he explain our year in East so that it makes any sense?  
“Ralph, remember that many of our colleagues are no longer with us, so be generous, and many more are still here, so a measure of discretion and a quick perusal of the libel laws might be in order. But keep writing.  I can’t wait to see how we all turn out after we grow up. You have a good eye for the crucial details that humanize your story.”


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