Ask Umbra at 10: What a long, strange tip it’s been
We have here a momentous occasion: The 10th anniversary of Ask Umbra! Instead of making myself useful by answering a question from one of you today I’ve compiled the 10 most notable moments in Ask Umbra history as I’ve feasted on organic carrot cake. Walk with me for a while — and keep an eye out for further celebrations this week. (We’ll also be dusting off some of our favorite columns from the archives in the coming months — if you have a classic you’d like to see get another moment in the sun, let us know.)
9. A year later, I launched a reader contest to come up with the most fitting term for an anti-environmentalist. The winning coinage, pollutocrat, soon became part of the Grist lexicon.
8. In 2005, fed up with our nation’s politics, I moved to Canada. Well, not really, but I announced as much in Grist, and got many a warm welcome from our neighbors to the north. Ultimately I decided I should stay here and fight the good fight. That, and the Mounties kept giving me the stinkeye.
7. Occasionally I took a step back to offer big-picture advice (OK, OK, I got all preachy), as when I delivered my Consumption Manifesto (aka “How to streamline your life and still enjoy the heck out of it”), teased my readers by laying out the perfect eco-day, and compiled an Umbra FAQ in the vain hope that people would stop asking, “Paper or plastic?” You people will never stop asking. I love you for that.
6. In 2007, Grist’s first book hit the shelves, drawing heavily from my sage advice. Wake Up and Smell the Planet: The Non-Pompous, Non-Preachy Grist Guide to Greening Your Day did not, however, feature my mug on the cover. That edition will sell like hotcakes.
5. After years of hunkering down in the stacks of Grist’s library (my long-held and deeply cherished title is Grist Research Associate II, Hardcovers and Periodicals Unit, Floors 2B-4B), I emerged to show my face, launching a GristTV series with video advice on commuting by bike. The surrounding hullabaloo earned us a profile in The New York Times — flattering, but frankly I’m still waiting for Popular Mechanics to come knocking.
4. I have fended off many an inquiry about my romantic availability over the years, even receiving a marriage proposal or two along the way. Dearest admirers: I’m touched … and I’m also taken.
3. That said, I am not above embracing perfect strangers, as I proved when I took to Times Square in a fetching bee suit, delivering “bee hugs” to raise awareness about colony collapse disorder.
2. We’re not all about plastic bags and light bulbs here on Floors 2B-4B. We’ve tackled the news as well, from Hurricane Katrina to Western forest fires, from elections to oil spills to the Occupy movement. No matter how dark the day, I believe there is always something we can do to make things better.
1. Dearest readers, I spent so much time thinking about what this No. 1 item should be that I had to go out and procure a second carrot cake. Then suddenly it was obvious: The highlight of the last decade is you. My followers, across the country and around the world, keep me going. Your questions never cease to perplex, amaze, and amuse (stay tuned this week for more examples of my favorites). Your support for me and for Grist means the world. And your thoughtfulness about your choices, along with your concern for the people and places around you, is downright inspiring. Keep wondering, keep worrying, and most of all, keep in touch.
Truly, madly, deeply,