Bad news, good news

From the Editor

From the effects of the tsunami in December to the renewed Bush administration assault on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the world has been awash in very bad news these days.

We should know. Our jobs here at Earth Island Journal involve paying close attention to that bad news and sifting through it, finding the worst to bring to your attention. Thus, we are especially sensitive to the effect bad news can have on a person’s well-being: We feel your pain.

In fact, when we ran a reader survey in 2002, the most frequent response to the question “What don’t you like about Earth Island Journal?” went something like: “Oh, my god! One piece of bad news after another! Reading your magazine is incredibly depressing!”

One of the changes we made in response to that survey was to give people a handle on the bad news by making sure to include information on how to learn more about an issue, or to take action on the problem. We run this information in those little blue “Take action” brackets so it’‘s easy to find.

But sometimes we can do more than just provide a way to make your voice heard. Sometimes we have some actual good news to report among the death and devastation.

Take former EIJ intern Lisa Katayama’s feature on drinking water and refugee camps in this issue. Refugee camps are by their very nature a depressing subject, but there are straightforward, concrete ways to make the camps safer for their residents both socially and environmentally. Some of the methods for alleviating suffering in camps must take place when the camp is being set up, but some can be implemented on the fly in existing camps as well. One such measure, a revolutionary water purification device invented by Berkeley, California resident Ashok Gadgil, solves a pressing problem by using appropriate and relatively inexpensive technology. I’‘ve wanted to feature Gadgil in Earth Island Journal since coming on board in 1998, and I’‘m pleased that through Lisa’s fine article, his work will at long last be introduced to Journal readers.

When it comes to constructive, hands-on solutions to poverty and environmental destruction, of course, few organizations can match the track record of our colleagues at Heifer International. Known best to North Americans for its cheerful fundraising catalogs and calendars, Heifer has done a huge amount of solid work alleviating misery in a fairly environmentally sustainable fashion, and our feature by Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan devotes much-deserved attention to this very successful bit of red-state initiative.

But perhaps the best piece of good news in this issue comes from behind the scenes. Earth Island’s purpose involves what our development folks call “growing environmental leadership,” and the Journal, through our internship program, is part of that process. With this issue, we graduate Lisa Katayama and her “classmate” Katherine Elizabeth Renz, both of whom have gone on to further internships with our friends at Mother Jones. Stepping into Lisa and Katie’s shoes are new interns Tucker Sharon and Natale Servino, both of whom have already contributed greatly to the Earth Island Journal and Earth Island’s Web site. We’re lucky to have them here; like all Journal interns who have gone before, they have great futures ahead of them.Chris Clarke (signature)

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