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September 2009 printable subscriber newsletter

Ecologist

28th August, 2009

This month, we pay tribute to the sad death of our founder, Edward Goldsmith, we look at how local councils could be about to waste our waste, look into a case of man vs forest, look in depth at the chemical industry and find out about the community fighting tar sands development in Alberta, Canada. To download the newsletter, you'll need to log in using your username and password, then scroll to the bottom of this page and click on the link

By now I’m sure that many of you will have heard the sad news that Ecologist founder and environmental luminary Edward Goldsmith passed away on Friday, 21st August. He had been suffering from a long illness, and died peacefully in his sleep at home.

As with any passing, it leaves a collection of disparate emotions. Sadness, of course. But fond memories as well. And, in the case of the Ecologist and its readers, it should convey a renewed sense of purpose.

Teddy’s life was, above all else, dedicated to pointing out the folly of conventional thinking. The very first issue of the Ecologist (which is free for all to read in our online archive) depicts a man sinking into a pool of mud (or slime – it’s in black and white), one hand extended as if trying desperately to save himself.

lt was a wordview – of a society sinking under its own weight of environmental folly – that very much dictated the path of the magazine. In his forthcoming book, Teddy’s nephew Zac Goldsmith describes the Ecologist as ‘for a while perhaps the world’s gloomiest magazine’. It’s an epithet I’d like to think we’ve outgrown, but it’s a valid observation. When all the evidence in front of you suggests that the world you know and love is sinking into the mire, then the desire to exhibit that evidence en masse to your readership becomes overwhelming. If rather tough reading.

While later incarnations of the Ecologist have tried to balance sombre news with practical solutions, the core thinking that underpinned how that news and those solutions were approached was undeniably Teddy’s. Perhaps not as finessed (the man did once spend an entire year reading about nothing but cybernetics), but clearly his.

Which is why I think that Teddy would have been interested to read this month’s investigations. Jayme Otto’s thoughtful profile of Madeleine Nyiratuza, coordinator of the Gishwati Conservation Project, cuts to the heart of a crucial issue: when there’s a choice between people’s welfare and the environment, which do you choose? Nyiratuza insists, as did Teddy, that you can still have both.

Similarly, David Ord’s in-depth look at attempts to rein-in the chemical industry since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring would, I suspect, have brought a nod of grim recognition from Teddy. The first issue of the Ecologist ran an article forseeing that the pesticide DDT had merely ‘retired for a moment to lick its poisoned wounds’, and that other, similarly dangerous compounds would follow in its wake.

Paul Miles’ graphic portrait of the indigenous communities fighting to keep their land safe from the tar sands industry– which gobbles up energy and ecosystems with abandon – would have reinforced much of what Teddy had said for years.

And David Strahan’s shocking investigation into how UK councils may be about to waste one of our most important green resources – food waste – would, I suspect, have elicited a snort of knowing derision from our founder.

Times, media, and circumstance may have changed. The basic issues have not. Teddy’s take on them will be sorely missed.

Mark Anslow, Editor

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