Letter from the Editor
John Terry, Ph.D.
Greetings, Friends of GOMI,
Welcome to the phoenix edition of the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI) Journal. Ours is a publication dedicated to engaging teachers, students, and scientists in research and action to preserve, restore, and steward wisely the Gulf of Maine (GoM) and its watershed. Climate change, the marker of our times, demands adaptation. Returning to what was normal is impractical. Putting a spin on the clichéd, secular homily “it takes a village” our mantra is, “It takes a watershed to raise a steward.”
Scientific announcements of the imminent threat of climate change to the survival of humans as well as many other animal and plant species have not been well received. This is true despite meticulously documented evidence and the fact that the ending of the world is not a wholly new idea. Islamic and Christian eschatological literature prophesize the “final coming,” or “the rapture” as called by some more modern Christians, as inevitable. However, for many, ending the world in “our time and on our watch” is not a happy thought.
That “the ending” is unthinkable for many should not be a surprise; bad news like nasty medicine isn’t palatable. Detailed, horrifying descriptions of the pending cataclysmic ending and flashing red lights warning “Danger Turn Back! Extinction Ahead!” have little positive effect. Contrary to scaring us into preventative action, which is precisely what is needed, these admonitions effectively promote withdrawal and denial. Accepting the immutable reality that change is a must and the economy we deify is a dinosaur seems unimaginable – a bridge too far!
As doers, we seek opportunity, not doom. Deniers and hand wringers are witness to the prophesy of doom and are part of the problem and not the solution. A quarter of a century into climate change, GOMI has met and partnered with many people from all walks of life, racial and ethnic backgrounds: people living in the forested highlands of the west, by the shores of our rivers that flow east to the sea, or alongside the boundaries of our great coastal salt marshes. People who are acting to manage, mitigate, and optimize climate effects in the communities they love. All are doing good work to ease and optimize the effects of climate change. We wish to help codify, unify, and amplify their stories into a compendium for change. If there is one thing the current “crisis” teaches, it is “We must change and to do so sustainably, we must commit to educating our children to be wise stewards.” While climate change brings the profound, grotesquely fascinating realization that human beings would be the first species to self-extinct, it also brings opportunity.
History tells us crisis is not a new wrinkle in the human story nor, for that matter, the evolution of the Earth. So let’s snatch a mantra from the 60s and declare, “In crisis lies opportunity.” As forests, rivers, and estuaries need renewal, so do we and our relationships with them, each other, and the planet. Imagine a world in amity. If we can imagine a new era and enough of us join in imagining, the prophesy becomes ours to fulfill.
“Pollyannish, impractical, poppycock!” you say? Well, not only is such a "glass-half-empty" conclusion impractical, it blocks positive action and is thus part of the problem. What is practical about exploiting, depleting, and polluting our natural resources to the point the planet is unable to sustain life as we know it? That worldview dictates a doomsday conclusion. On the contrary, our Emerald Web initiative envisions a world in which action toward amity are the primary values and goals. GOMI has been working for over two decades with educators, teachers, scientists, parents, and students to build such examples. Examples created to help preserve, renew, protect, and build robust, resilient, natural systems. Also created by people who understand their efforts to be vital to living with and within a sustainable planet. We are far from being alone in such efforts. Many similar steps are being conducted throughout the Gulf watershed and the planet. Many reading this may already be part of such efforts or know of those who are. We would like to hear and tell your efforts and their stories as part of the remarkable, evolving narrative for a new epoch.
The change we talk of asks for changes in individual behaviors such as eating organically or adding pollinator friendly native plants in your garden. On a larger scale, it asks scientists to take time to reach into communities as partners in stewardship and build the bridge of mutual purpose. It bids scientists and the community to learn to communicate in common parlance, build shared knowledge leading to science-based community solutions and educate children and youth to steward wisely. Such an approach will have the long-term beneficial effects of preparing future stewards and renewing public confidence in science as a tool to help create a better world.
Our youthful authors point out that this is an “all hands on deck” effort that calls all community members, not only scientists, to be present and active in educating future stewards. Much has been said and written about how we came to this predicament and the complications of “un-messing” it. We need to seriously rethink what it takes to nurture democracy in harmony with the natural world. We may find the solution to be less complicated, albeit not the smoothest of medicines. We will devote the Journal to this conversation, and it will be ongoing.
John founded the Gulf of Maine Institute in 1999. John was Editor-in-Chief, CYD (Community Youth Development) Journal from Aug. 1994 to Nov. 2002. John has broad teaching and administrative experience at the university level including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1969-1984, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 1985-1992, and Union College, Schenectady, NY, 1964-1969. John received national recognition in 2006 when selected as Civic Ventures,’ Lead with Experience Program 2006 Purpose Prize Fellows. He is also a 2008 recipient of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment Visionary Award