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back issues


June/July 2007
In Its End, a Beginning
By Martin Rowe

This is the one hundred and forty-second—and last—issue of this magazine, which Beth Gould and I founded way back in 1994. Beth has decided it’s time to move on, and so the magazine is coming to an end.

Naturally, I’m saddened, and yet, having edited Satya from the beginning to 1999, and having worked in publishing for 13 years (eight of them as the owner of my own company, Lantern), I know how hard it is to keep publishing in niche areas and make a living at it. It can be tiring summoning up the energy to think about the next edition and the one after it, while putting together the current issue. Such a mindset, necessary though it is, makes it hard to dwell on what’s been achieved rather than what’s to come; you’re always looking to the future rather than living in the present. Curiously, it’s only when you stop producing a magazine that you realize just how much work it was!

Or how rewarding. When I moved from Satya to start Lantern, I suddenly found my time opening up, and I was able to stand back and finally gain pleasure from having produced something worthwhile—something I believed in, which had also (or so I was told) made a difference in people’s lives. Since then, I’ve looked on with pride and admiration as the magazine that began on a whim and a hunch developed into a thoughtful and informative tool for activists.

Looking back, it’s interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t. When the first issue came out, on June 10, genocide was raging in Africa, as was conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims in a contested area of the world. Not much new there. On June 12, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman would be murdered, and the U.S. media would subject the world to the subsequent tribulations of a washed-up celebrity while ignoring the plight of hundreds of thousands of anonymous souls in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. Not much new there, either. In the Middle East, a powerful Muslim country beginning with an “I” was defying UN arms inspectors over its nuclear weapons program. Again, plus ça change.

But it wasn’t all bad news. A month prior to our first issue, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president, while a month after our launch, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan and established diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Later that year the Provisional IRA announced a “complete cessation of military operations,” the Russian army left Estonia, and the Angolan government and UNITA rebels signed a peace accord. Sometimes, it’s good to remind ourselves, things can change for the better.

So, as always, it was the best and worst of times, with hopes dashed and raised in somewhat equal measure. And it’s the same with general trends. In 13 years, animal welfare and environmental issues have become more visible, and global climate change has finally been accepted as scientific fact. However, there are now more animals being killed for food than at any time in history, and because of the prevarications of three administrations and the various Congresses, it may already be too late to mitigate the social and environmental disruptions and disasters that await us.

No magazine can be held responsible for altering (or not) the course of history—and our aims at the outset were fairly modest. Satya wanted to provide a forum for the environmental, animal advocacy, vegetarian and social justice communities, and the activists that comprised them, to discuss the issues that united and, at times, divided us. The magazine has done this admirably, and in a way that has eschewed the sound byte article, the 200 word-long interview, and the compilation of lists that seem to dominate magazines today.

Instead, Satya has used long-form interviews, opinion pieces, and articles filled with original research to present a comprehensive overview of subjects written by a wide variety of individuals from a wide variety of perspectives. In an age where people like their news and views digested for them, where it sometimes seems that environmentalism equals acquiring cool stuff, vegetarianism means varieties of vegan cake, animal advocacy is the parsing of what constitutes cruelty, and social justice is what celebrities and rock stars find interesting that morning, Satya’s privileging of minority voices (in all senses of the word) has been refreshing and vital. Its willingness to ask hard questions of its communities has been its strength as well as a focus for some of the criticism leveled at it. But you take the blows with the kudos when you’re a publisher: paradoxically, it’s the price you have to pay for entering and fostering the free market of ideas.

Because of the wonders of the web, still rudimentary when the magazine began, and now itself a phenomenally powerful tool for information and mobilization for change (as well as distraction and trivia), the great majority of what was written for Satya will still be available and archived, making a repository of inspiring and challenging voices for years to come. Those who did such great work on, and with, the magazine will move on to other important work, and all who contributed will still be able to say, “I was in [or at] Satya,” and do it with pride.

When Clamor magazine closed late last year, I wrote on the Lantern Books’ website of the difficulty of progressive publishing in a climate of multiple media, with their claims on our attention and our dollars. Thankfully, economics didn’t bring an end to Satya; the natural cycle of things did, instead. While that’s encouraging, and we should echo T.S. Eliot (in “Dry Salvages”) by wishing the employees and writers, “not farewell but fare forward,” it would be nice to believe that the silencing of Clamor and the end of Satya would make us cherish even more what remains. I also hope that what they—we—accomplished would encourage us to take the lessons we’ve learned, and the inspiration and courage we’ve read about and been inspired by over 13 years, and apply them diligently and passionately to the next. In so doing, perhaps we might echo Eliot again, and say: In their end is our beginning.

Martin Rowe was the editor at Satya from 1994 to 1999, and is the co-founder of Lantern ( He has recently founded, with Mia MacDonald, Brighter Green (, a nonprofit “action tank” that aims to apply many of the ideas espoused in Satya within the framework of international public policy.