January 1

There are 3 entries for this date: Sting David Suzuki Aldo Leopold

    Aldo Leopold

    On this date in 1887, wildlife ecologist Rand Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa, the eldest of four in a family of Lutherans who rarely attended church. Leopold earned his master of forestry from Yale University in 1909, worked in the Southwest, then transferred to the Forest Products Laboratory, in Madison, Wis. He became professor of game management at the University of Wisconsin in 1933 and chair of its new wildlife management department in 1939.

    Leopold married a Catholic, Estella Bergene, in 1912, and they had five children. His church-going was limited to being married in one and attending his daughter Nina’s wedding. Beyond that, he believed “there was a mystical supreme power that guided the Universe, but to him this power was not a personal God. It was more akin to the laws of nature,” according to biographer Curt Meine (Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work, 1988).

    In the 1930s he acquired a worn-out farm near Baraboo, Wis., dubbed “the Shack,” as a weekend retreat. He applied his respect for living lightly on the land and for “harmony between people and the land” to restore it. It remains the only “chicken coop” listed on the National Register of Historic Places. His influential book A Sand County Almanac, composed of sketches of nature and philosophical essays, was published posthumously in 1949. He suffered a fatal heart attack while helping a neighbor put out a grass fire on April 21, 1948. 

    “He thought organized religion was all right for many people, but did not partake of it himself.”

    —"Aldo Leopold: A Fierce Green Fire" by Marybeth Lorbiecki (1996)

    David Suzuki

    David Suzuki

    On this date in 1936, scientist and environmental advocate David Suzuki was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. His family was subjected to internment in Canada during World War II and relocation afterward. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Amherst College in 1958 and his Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1961. He joined the University of British Columbia in 1963 and worked as a genetics professor until retiring in 2001.

    He has been awarded 25 honorary degrees and is the recipient of numerous other awards for his work in science, environmental activism, science writing and science broadcasting. Suzuki has written over 50 books, including 19 children’s books and a widely used genetics textbook, An Introduction to Genetic Analysis (1976).

    His television work includes “The Brain,” a Discovery Channel series; “The Secret of Life,” a PBS/BBC series; and “The Nature of Things with David Suzuki.” His more popular documentaries include “It’s a Matter of Survival” and “From Naked Ape to Superspecies.” He is a co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation, whose goals are protecting nature and the climate, transforming the economy, reconnecting with nature and building community.

    He was married to Setsuko Sunahara from 1958 to 1965. They had three children. In 1973 he married Tara Cullis, with whom he had two daughters.

    “As an atheist, Suzuki declares, he has no illusions about life and death, adding that the individual is insignificant in cosmic terms. Human beings must come to terms with the unbearable reality that they, like all life, will be extinguished.”

    —Review of "David Suzuki: The Autobiography," The London Free Press (April 29, 2006)
    Compiled by Sarah Eucalano

    Sting

    Sting

    On this date in 1951, musician Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner (Sting), was born to a milkman and hairdresser in Wallsend on Tyne, Northumberland, England. Sumner took the name Sting after someone told him he looked like a bee wearing a striped sweater. He became a husband and father before turning 20 and moved to London hoping to launch his musical career. He and two others started the band The Police in 1976. As lead singer, he wrote most of the music and lyrics.

    The group had early hits with “Roxanne” and “Message in a Bottle” but struck musical gold with the 1983 hit “Every Breath You Take.” Sting began acting in such films as “Quadrophenia” (1979), “Dune” (1984) and “The Bride” (1985). The Police broke up in 1984 after winning six Grammys and Sting released his first solo album the next year, “The Dream of the Blue Turtles,” which was nominated for a Grammy. He continued to perform and record and collaborate with other artists, including a 2014-15 world tour with Paul Simon and the next year with Peter Gabriel. His 14th album, “My Songs,” was released in May 2019.

    He was married to actress Frances Tomelty from 1976-84. They had two children: Joseph and Fuchsia Katherine. He married actress and film producer Trudie Styler in 1992 after they had been together for a decade. They have four children: Brigitte Michael, Jake, Eliot Pauline and Giacomo Luke.

    Sting’s activism has persisted throughout his career. Since the 1980s, he has actively supported Amnesty International, and co-founded the Rainforest Foundation in 1989, in an effort to save the Brazilian rainforest. He has authored books including Jungle Stories: The Fight for the Amazon (1989), with co-author Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, and Spirits in the Material World (1994), with Pato Banton.

    In the CD booklet of his Winter Solstice album, “If On A Winter’s Night” (2009), Sting twice identified himself as an agnostic. Answering “What do you think happens when we die?” he once said: “It’s only conjecture, but I imagine it’s the same as it was before I was here. Which makes it incumbent upon us to create a heaven on Earth, now, and not hell.” (“The Late Show with Steven Colbert,” Dec. 10, 2021)

    Public domain photo: Sting at the 2014 Kennedy Center Awards.

    “[I]f ever I’m asked if I’m religious I always reply, ‘Yes, I’m a devout musician.’ Music puts me in touch with something beyond the intellect, something otherworldly, something sacred.”

    —Sting, commencement address, Berklee College of Music in Boston (May 15, 1994)
    Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch and Scott Grinstead

Freedom From Religion Foundation