Remembering Robie Hubley, a Champion for the Natural World
In July of this year, the Valley lost Robie Hubley—a champion for the land and the environment—who served on Kestrel’s Board in years past. The following tribute was written by Judith Eiseman, Kestrel Advisor and former Board Trustee.
Robie Hubley. While many in the Valley recall him fondly, some may ask, who was he? Well, he was briefly a Kestrel Board member which is why this space is devoted to his memory. Robie valued the work of land trusts because they do some of what he devoted his life to doing: saving wonderful places from being “loved to death” by over use or thoughtless development. His time with Kestrel came late in his career and, though our work was valuable to him, he fairly soon felt the Trust didn’t meet his primary need to be politically as well environmentally active.
Robie used to say he was “widely traveled in Massachusetts” meaning he knew the state’s land and its resources intimately as well as how they fit into the larger regional picture. His focus on the Bay State helped him win in scores of actions dealing with environmental protection, regulations, and land acquisitions both here in the Valley, across the state, and as a lobbyist in the State House for MassAudubon. The list of his accomplishments is long (see his obituary in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.)
Although his triumphs were important in their time, what mattered most was the attitude he brought to the fight for the health of the earth.
We need people like him to make a fuss when a fuss needs to be made—a fuss that can actually accomplish a clear objective. And we need his sort of strategic thinking and planning to see when a fuss would be counterproductive and subtlety more effective.
Robie was a teacher, a scientist, and an activist who did more than hold signs or complain. He didn’t attend vigils or stand in protest, then leave, satisfied he’d done enough. He envisioned solutions, then took initiative to see them realized. It was his ability to network, combined with persistence, that made him effective. He constantly questioned, developed conclusions, then quickly revised them when new data arrived. His sort of personal commitment plus learnable skills can make others effective, too.
Never passive, he was one of the most energetic, insightful, and inquisitive people I’ve ever known. Everything interested him. Music. Art. Politics. Literature. Philosophy. Kids. Natural phenomena. He loved to laugh—often at himself. Any observation or remark could start him on a quest or a conversation or a project. Every idea or theory and most environmental problems were worth at least a little of his time to consider and a proportionate amount of effort.
Parents need child care and kids need a place to be outdoors and learn to love it? Start a nursery school. Should Route 2 run through Wendell State Forest? Find another way—the forest has value as it is! Divert the Connecticut River because Boston needs more water? Fix the leaky pipes— there’s plenty of water! Development threatening Mount Tom? Let’s protect it! Trash being pushed into the Mill River? Close the dump! Land being misused? Conserve that habitat, watershed, historic site, beautiful view. Look around the Valley and you’ll see what he and his friends accomplished together.
Robie left us a legacy of films, photos, legislation, accomplishment and connections. As an author, partner, and mentor to others who helped shape the environmental landscape in Massachusetts over the past 50 years, he made a difference by bringing others along for the ride to talk, argue, study and make big things happen. He could only focus on a piece of the puzzle at a time but always looked for connections. To me that seemed to be his message:
Enjoy it all. Focus on your piece, but understand how it fits into the whole. It’s a recipe for getting results that matter.