Commitment to Life on This Earth

Interview with Ann Druyan and Steven Soter
A Commitment to Life on This Earth

Carl Sagan Discovery Center. Credit: Luis Blanc, Rockwell Group

Kathleen Connell: As evidence of your commitment to life on this Earth, I note that the Carl Sagan Foundation’s inaugural project was the Carl Sagan Discovery Center, the first children’s hospital to be built in the Bronx.

Ann Druyan: That’s right. I’m glad you noticed that. I’m really proud of it. I wish you could go there and see how unbelievably cool it is. Every single bed has a flat-screen, giant, 22-inch video display. Every bed has a computer. My favorite thing about this place is that it’s built on the highest elevation in the whole Greater New York City area. So even though it’s only eleven stories tall, you can see all of the rivers, the topography of the surrounding area. And when you pull the shades down on these gorgeous picture windows, you see that same scene, only it’s a hundred million years ago.

Soter and Dr. Dora Katsonopoulou in the ruins of Helike.

There are 400,000 kids in the Bronx. And there’s never been a children’s hospital there, which is unbelievable. These are 400,000 of the most, by any standard, disadvantaged kids in our country. And this Carl Sagan Discovery Center is a tiny paradise. Every floor, every inch of the hospital is a way of showing how wonderful nature and the universe are, and how thrilling it is to know it more deeply. I’m really glad you mentioned that, because it’s a source of enormous gratification to me.

Kathleen Connell: I would be remiss to not mention that Steven Soter has co-directed multidisciplinary research for the site of Helike, which is an ancient Greek city destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in 373 BC. So, Steve, you are also an explorer into the future as well as into the past.

Ann Druyan: Exactly!

Kathleen Connell: I think both of you are incredible but very human and accessible and lovely people. You demonstrate that we can explore our own potential with courage, and understand that concern for other people’s good opinion should not determine the decisions we make about how we spend our time here on the planet.

Ann Druyan: Boy, Carl definitely taught us that.