Rob Robinson was born in Benson, Arizona, in 1941, where his father was in the Border Patrol during WWII. After the war was over, his father transitioned to the diplomatic corps of the State Department, resulting in a globe-trotting childhood for young Robinson. He grew up in a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Chile, Ethiopia, Germany, Mexico, and the United States. This frequent change of country and culture sparked his zealous interest in geography and history, in addition to his lifelong love for the outdoors.
When the time came to choose a focus in college, Robinson wanted to study forestry like his father, but was talked into pursuing an engineering degree instead. He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines with a BS in Mining Engineering—the first of many higher education pursuits he would follow. He was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly after.
After serving two years in the army, Robinson attended graduate school at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. While earning his MS in Mining Engineering there, he experienced a life-changing revelation about human overpopulation that altered his perspective forever.
“I’m not a spiritual person, but it was like a spiritual experience—just being out there among the wildlife in Africa. And they took no notice of you while you’re going about… And then I got to thinking about the U.S. and why you don’t see a profusion of wildlife in our national parks and preserves. Then I quickly realized, there was a profusion of wildlife in the U.S., prior to Europeans arriving, and then we killed it off.” He continued to explain how these initial thoughts lead him to the conclusion that human overpopulation was the root of this problem, as well as the root of the problems of climate change, air, water and soil pollution, poverty, and so on.
Robinson ended up working as a mine superintendent for a number of years in Africa and, afterwards, the United States. Mid-career, he “became most disillusioned with the mining industry” after witnessing a number of corrupt acts, as well as many companies avoiding cleaning up their mines by using any excuse or loopholes they could find. This disappointment inspired Robinson to return to graduate school, where he earned an MS in Environmental Management and Policy at the University of Denver.
The combination of his new degree and his years of engineering experience led to a job with the Bureau of Land Management, which he describes as, “one of the few times I’ve been at the right place at the right time for a great job.” In his position, he coordinated the cleanup of abandoned mines and was very passionate about this work, which he continued doing until retirement.
Even in retirement, Robinson is not done learning. He just recently earned his fourth degree at the age of 74—a BS in Biology from Metropolitan State University of Denver.
He and his wife, Margie, dedicate much of their time in retirement to volunteer work. His number one commitment at this time is helping several indigenous communities in Guatemala with their local mining conflicts. He was able to recruit a team of volunteer experts that provide these communities with evaluations on how a new or proposed mine will impact them and how the mining company should be properly conducting their operations. Robinson proudly brings up his team’s success as he describes how, “two communities have stopped the mines in their area and two continue to take action against the other mines.”
Outside of his work in Guatemala, Robinson also volunteers at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, preparing new specimens for them, and monitors conservation easements with Colorado Open Lands. When he has free time between all of his volunteer work, he can be found mountain biking on a nice day, collecting specimens for his small herbarium collection, or babysitting two granddaughters with Margie.
Rob Robinson has been a member of Population Connection since 1999. We appreciate his ongoing generosity, and admire the way he has chosen to live his life and dedicate himself to helping others and the planet. His story serves as an example to us all that we are never too old to stop learning and that we must never lose hope in our vision for a thriving planet with a sustainable human population.
Contact Ellen Potts at firstname.lastname@example.org.