Dutchess Quarry Cave #8, near Florida, New York: one of the earliest human sites in eastern North America.     photo: Robin Andersen

I worked in construction 20 years, but the best job came near the end of my time in the industry. The union delegate sent me to the dinosaur exhibit renovation at the American Museum of Natural History. Soon after, I got a night school degree in biology and went on to study mastodon sites of southern New York’s swamps and bogs as a graduate student. It’s a messy job, but mucklands are loaded with fossil pollen and have many stories to tell. Modern pollen is another story I follow: checking what’s in the air from day to day. And teaching biology labs for college freshmen is also part of my second career; we now do field trips to the same exhibits I helped put together at the American Museum of Natural History.

I titled this “Modern Times”, because as a biologist, I think of humans becoming modern by 200,000 years ago. Tools and fire had long been part of our culture, but soon we would make art and music, sew our clothes and braid our hair. At the same time, I’m thinking of Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin, the silent film where his “little tramp” character is a factory worker who somehow stands for all of us today, entangled in a profit-driven industrial conveyor belt.

(the banner shows Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, in the region of human origins. Photo: Guy Robinson)


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