What Is Paul Faulstich Wearing?

In college, Paul Faulstich and I were in overlapping friends groups, with our joint slice of the diagram being the Food Co-op, which was sort of the Where the Wild Things Are end of one of the dorms. I have one story about retaliatory bacon bits and another about the baked baking shortcake, but those can wait for another time.

Paul has been back at Pitzer since 1991, as Professor of Environmental Analysis. (And let me say that while I got a first-rate education in English there, you really can't do better when it comes to studying ecology and the environmental sciences, so if that's your kid's thing, tell them to take a look.)

How is the natural world taking our withdrawal?

Interestingly, it’s mixed. While we see a lot of what we might expect – animals basking in the quietude of fewer humans tromping around their habitat – there are also examples of animals that seem less than enthralled by our absence. I live adjacent to a wilderness park in southern California, and there are actually fewer deer wandering about than there were in pre-COVID times. One reason is that deer engage in behavior known as human shielding, wherein they seek safety from predators by hanging around people. If the people are missing, then the deer are in greater danger from predators, who generally steer clear of humans. In my research I use trailcams — rugged cameras designed for remote outdoor use — to document wildlife behaviors. These days I’m photographing lots of predators, but fewer herbivores.

Nature is more complex and nuanced than we can understand, so the fact that not all animals are reacting the way we might expect should not be surprising. Animals don’t always see us as the enemy. Remember, humans are natural, too.

And how are your students taking their own?

My students are remarkable: patient, forgiving, and resilient. They are taking their shelter-in-place orders in stride and are making the best of their situations. Like other colleges, Pitzer has moved to online instruction, and my students remain engaged, eager to be challenged, and intellectually curious. It gives me hope.

Where are you taking all of those wildlife photos you post on Facebook? (In my fantasy it's your backyard.)

The images I post are taken in the foothills of my town, Claremont, California. While some of them are indeed from my literal backyard -- I live in the hills -- most of the photos are from the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, a treasured community resource of about 2,500 acres of chaparral habitat. Trailcams can help us understand how other animals live, and inform us about species diversity and richness. I photograph wildlife here to better understand animal behavior, increase public awareness, and identify best practices for wildlife management. Protecting wildlife is critical to healthy and resilient ecosystems, and I believe that healthy ecosystems are critical to human health and fulfillment. [Follow Paul on Facebook for more amazing photos.]

What's the most hopeful book you can recommend?

Funny you should ask. I’m currently reading A Hundred Little Pieces on the End of the World, by John Rember. It isn’t hope-filled, to say the least. So, the book that comes immediately to mind as hopeful is much older: The Practice of the Wild, by Gary Snyder. Snyder, the poet laureate of deep ecology, ruminates on old/new ways of being-in-the-world. He reminds us that if we recover a narrative way of knowing, a knowing that has been devalued in post-industrial thought, then we can begin to heal our alienation from the planet. What can emerge is a resiliency and an appreciation for different kinds of knowing, where human action becomes integrated into the order of nature. Earth is a wondrous and fragile gem of a planet, Gary Snyder reminds us, and we are oh-so-lucky to inhabit it during our momentary visit. We can live as healthy cohabitants.

Does everybody still go to Walter's? (I mean these days not right now.)

Walter’s, for those not in the know, is an eatery in Claremont, California (where Roger went to college back in the Paleoterrific). In the 1970s Walter’s was more of a diner and less of the full-scale restaurant, bar, and lounge it is now. But it still manages to have a college town feel and, under the same ownership for 42 years, it still satisfies many a belly and nurtures many a conversation. Bear in mind, though, that the sleepy college town that we once lovingly referred to as Clareville is now home to some 80 restaurants, drawing people from near and far. In these days of COVID, though, Walter’s is open for takeout and delivery only.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

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