I was born in Salt Lake City in October 1938 – less than a year before the German invasion of Poland and the beginning of WWII – the second of two sons to A. Ray Tolman and Ruth Miller, who were teenagers when they married. We were descendents of Mormon pioneers - a tough and enterprising bunch. My great grandfather Judson Tolman was born in 1826 in Maine (I thought he was from New Hampshire and always liked the state motto “Live free or die”); he joined the Mormons in 1844 and came to Salt Lake as a young man in 1848.# Many Tolmans still live in New England, especially near Boston; the first to America (Thomas Tolman) is said to have come to Boston in 1630 on a ship named the William and John.* Judson eventually had four wives and 29 children, the youngest of whom was my grandfather, Justin Tolman, who attended the University of Utah and taught science and math in junior high and high schools in Idaho and Utah.
I became interested in science at an early age – first reading about dinosaurs when I was in elementary school, and then reading by grandfather’s college chemistry text when I was in 7th grade. When I was 17 I did two things that really changed my life: I became an American Field Service exchange student and spent a summer in Switzerland, and joined the Unitarian Church in Salt Lake – much to the consternation of many of my Mormon family and friends. By the end of high school I had decided to become a scientist or engineer, a psychologist, or a minister. I worked most of my life as a scientist, but now in my retirement I have become a missionary for the environment.
I developed a love for the outdoors and the mountains when I was young. Like John Muir, I came to see the beauty and majesty of God in the natural world. I still see Zion National Park as a magnificent cathedral, and the Sierra Nevada above all others as the Range of Light. Much of my poetry is inspired by the natural world, which is full of wonder. I was fortunate to marry Ann McCarthy, whom I met as a student at UC Berkeley. Her father gave me a lifetime membership in the Sierra Club, and we spent many happy hours together hiking, fishing, cooking over an open fire, and sleeping out under the stars.
I have the good fortune to be the father of three children (Alison, Susan and Ken) and five grandchildren (Campbell, Sarah, Isabel, Lily and Peter), and have decided to dedicate the rest of my life to trying to leave a sustainable world for them to enjoy and thrive in.
QUEST ITEM FOR OCTOBER 2010
The following is excerpted from an item written by Chad for Quest, the newsletter of the First Unitarian Church of Wilmington (FirstU), in October of 2010.
THE COALITION FOR CLIMATE CHANGE STUDY AND ACTION (C3SA)
On 10/10/10 a group of us from FirstU, the six other churches in C3SA, the DE Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Delaware Center for Horticulture, the LWV DE, the Delaware Nature Society and The Nature Conservancy worked together to plant 350 native trees – 175 at the Middle Run Natural Area in Newark in New Castle County and 175 at the Milford Neck Preserve on the Delaware Bay in Kent County. In Newark, where I was, we had about 30 volunteers of all ages from 5 to 70+ helping to plant trees. The photograph is the group of planters in Newark. After the Newark planting, we had four short talks, thanking the volunteers, explaining the significance of the event, and announcing a series of home energy-saving workshops, led by John Irwin of the Energy Committee of the DE Chapter of the Sierra Club. The tree-planting event in Delaware was part of worldwide effort led by Bill McKibben to bring the attention of the world’s people and leaders to the need to deal effectively and soon with the growing threat of global climate change. The significance of the number 350 is that humanity must reduce the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to less than 350 parts per million (ppm) if we are to avoid unprecedented human suffering and the extinction of many of Earth’s plant and animal species. 10/10/10 was the largest demonstration in human history – with over 7000 events in 188 countries. Thanks to all of you who contributed money or helped with the planting. If you want to learn more about the movement and the challenge we face, go to McKibben’s web site at www.350.org, and read his book, Eaarth – Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2010.
COMMMENTS FOR WILMINGTON MAYOR BAKER ON COOL CITIES, JANUARY 11, 2011
The following comments were made on January 11 as part of a recognition ceremony for Mayor James Baker for his leadership in promoting environmental awareness and action in Wilmington, Delaware.
Good morning. I’m Chad Tolman, the Energy Chair of the DE Chapter of the Sierra Club. I’m happy to be here today to honor you, Mayor Baker, for your leadership and your vision in making Wilmington – Delaware’s largest city – the first Sierra Club Cool City in the state.
As a scientist who has studied energy and climate change for many years, I have concluded that these two closely related issues pose the greatest challenge to civilization in our time. The challenge is not only scientific and economic, but also involves national security, social justice, and what kind of legacy we want to leave to our children and grandchildren, and to future generations to come.
Two of the greatest impacts of climate change on Delaware are likely to be sea level rise and stronger storms - with more precipitation, higher winds, and flooding of low-lying areas. We tend of think of Rehoboth and Dewey Beach downstate as being especially vulnerable. But here in Wilmington, the community of Southbridge, the Port of Wilmington, and the wastewater treatment plant serving New Castle County – are all very close to current sea level – which could rise by five feet or more during this century, even as storms become more intense. What will happen to these people and jobs and critical infrastructure? Will the state be able to buy people out – as it did for the homeowners in Glenville – or move them to higher ground? Will it be able to replace vital infrastructure?
Mayor Baker has come to realize – as not enough of our political leaders have so far – that the challenge of climate change is not someone else’s responsibility. It’s our responsibility. It’s not for some future time. It’s for our time. It’s not in some other place. It right here in Wilmington, right here in Delaware.
Mayor, thank you again for your important leadership.