In September 2011, I joined Grist as its executive editor. It was an eventful time. President Obama was soon to make a momentous decision about the Keystone XL pipeline. Congress was beginning to wrestle with a new farm bill. The clock had basically run out for our species to act to stop global climate change.
It’s two and a half years later. Keystone? That decision still looms. Farm bill? We got that, finally, though it was touch and go. The climate? Still not looking good.
Despite the Groundhog-Day-ish nature of this apparently static reality — the Eternal Gloom of the Sustainable Mind — I have never felt a sense of futility as I’ve overseen Grist’s coverage. On the contrary, it’s been a blast. Laughing over the abyss is what we do here — even as we’re trying to picture the distance between the two sides accurately, and crossing our fingers that we’ll make it safely across.
At the end of next week, I’ll be leaving this editor’s job for personal reasons. I love Grist and will continue to do some part-time editing work; but the organization is based in Seattle, I’m based in the Bay Area, and it’s time for me to stop pretending that it’s possible to be in two places at once. Therefore, this brief stock-taking.
To be sure, some things did happen in the course of these past two-and-a-half years. And I’m not just talking about the stuff that happened at Grist, where we more than doubled our monthly traffic, performed acts of ground-breaking journalism, and discovered that the internet <3 crazy living rocks and giant tree lobsters.
For one thing, we had an election — remember? This was the one where the side that pretended there is no climate crisis at all lost to the side that admits there’s a crisis but can’t summon the will to respond to it.
Yet, even while the U.S. political system remains shamefully paralyzed, change happens anyway. We’re seeing a vast transformation of cultural values that, over the next couple of decades, will rewrite the way we think about the human environment.
Grist aims to make green second nature. And it feels like we’re making some headway, because that is exactly what is unfolding all around us: Ideas that were once tagged “environmentalist” are being widely embraced as simple common sense. This outcome, I think, is as inevitable as those we’re seeing with other principled causes, like same-sex marriage and immigration reform.
Can this really be happening? Will enough of it happen in time to prevent irreversible climate catastrophe? And will the giant tree lobster live to hatch again?
Stay tuned! And thanks for reading. Starting next month, I’ll be over here if you need anything.