Editorial: Art Of Optimism

Nora Goldstein, BioCycle

Nora Goldstein
BioCycle August 2013, Vol. 54, No. 8, p. 4

Newspaper and magazine headlines over the past few weeks have not been good in the planet sustainability department. Last week, Time magazine’s cover screamed: “A World Without Bees: The Price We’ll Pay If We Don’t Figure Out What’s Killing The Honeybee.” A readout in the article states: “The take-home message is that we are very close to the edge. It’s a roll of the dice now.” Our local newspaper had a headline citing the latest data on the earth’s temperature rising (yes, it’s trending hotter). A correspondent for the New York Times, based in Beijing, China wrote about the horrific air quality in an article titled, “Life In A Toxic Country.” And one more example: A commentary on the radio by the author of a new book, Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Ever-Ending Earth by Craig Childs as I was driving into work today.

One of the first mainstream press articles on climate change that I ever saw was a cover story about 15 years ago that, like Time’s bee cover, screamed something to the effect, “We are in trouble. We are really in trouble.” I can’t find the specific reference, but what I remember most is the reaction of my children, one in elementary school and the other in middle school. They were truly frightened and wanted to be reassured that they were safe. Unlike a lot of households back then, I was fully aware, and somewhat knowledgeable, about climate change and the window of opportunity to actually do something about it. I explained to my children that we (the universal “we”) know how to fix this and that in fact BioCycle had articles regularly on companies and communities that were already adopting practices that mitigated the impacts of climate change. That calmed their fears at the time.

Over the years — and many, many articles and reports later in BioCycle — they would ask me again if they were going to be okay. I modified my response, telling them I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed every morning if I didn’t believe we have the tools to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Fast forward to today. My children are now adults. Both received bachelor degrees in environmental studies; my daughter is in her second year of a Master’s program in urban planning, with an emphasis on sustainability. My son is about to start an Americorp position with a nonprofit composting and technical assistance organization. I am about to start my 36th year on the editorial staff of BioCycle.

Do I still believe that we, the people of the planet, are going to be okay? Well, I am still getting out of bed in the morning and coming to The JG Press offices. And yes, I still believe we can be okay, but the luxury of time we may have had over 15 years ago when my kids read the disturbing headline is gone. My optimism was instilled in me by my parents, Jerry Goldstein, founder of BioCycle, and Ina Pincus, our Associate Publisher. Jerry refused to put any energy into worrying about what might happen. His focus, and my mother’s, was always on what can happen and what is happening to solve the earth’s problems. That theme, and attitude, is as strong today as it was when Jerry started BioCycle (as Compost Science) in 1960. From the island of Puerto Rico, where environmental stewards are teaching children of all ages about composting and gardening (see page 40) to the Washington State Department of Corrections training offenders in composting and horticulture (page 32), we are surrounded by people making positive changes for the planet.

The bottom line is we can’t give up now. We just need to move more quickly with more and more people, working with the tools in hand, while better ones are being invented. This is the art of optimism. See you in the morning.

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