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May 2004
Ten Years
A Reflection by Martin Rowe

 

Martin Rowe

When Beth Gould and I began Satya ten years ago, we had a relatively clear idea of what the magazine would be. As I wrote in my first editorial in June 1994: “Satya aims to provide a voice for the people of New York City and the surrounding area who wish to explore and affirm the connections between their different groups to unite around a common theme of ending exploitation, suffering, random cruelty, and waste.”

Well, ten years came and went and exploitation, suffering, random cruelty, and waste are still with us. The Internet came and the money for dot-comers (largely) went; George W. Bush came and Princess Diana went; and 9/11 came and U.S. credibility in the Middle East went. The Kyoto protocol remains unapproved and mostly unimplemented, and the promises of the world summits on sustainable development in Rio (1992) and Johannesburg (2002) remain unfulfilled. There are several hundred million poorer, hungrier people and several hundred million fatter, richer people in the world. By the time another ten years have passed, the orangutan may be extinct in the wild, the Siberian tiger vanished, some islands in the Pacific underwater, factory farms like wildfire all over China, and the possibilities of turning anything around gone.

Yet we continue—and, in spite of the above, with good reason. While it would be somewhat audacious for Satya to claim that it has united the environmental, animal rights, and vegetarian communities anywhere—let alone New York City—it is clear that environmentalists, especially the new generation, are beginning to understand the centrality of diet choices in enhancing or halting environmental destruction. This ten-year period in New York City has seen an exponential increase in vegetarian restaurants, vegan and organic food, Community Supported Agriculture, greenmarket produce, bike paths, and other features that make up a sustainable future. Parks have been cleaned up and dog runs established, people have returned to mass transit, neighborhoods have been reclaimed, and there’s even a new boss of the once notorious and now newly renamed New York City Animal Care and Control. And all of that has been due to the tireless work of activists. As the protests against war and for peace of the last few years can attest, the movements for social justice are more vibrant, more youthful, and more international than in many decades, and there is no reason to believe that this kind of civil society action will diminish.

I can only lay claim to the first five years of Satya. When, at the end of 1999, I left the magazine in the more-than-capable hands of Catherine Clyne and her team, I knew that Satya would change—and that that would be a good thing. I also thought the quality of the work would remain the same. I was wrong. The quality has gotten better—much better. Given my five-year absence, I think I am objective enough to argue that you would be hard pressed to find a magazine that covers so many different issues, with so many diverse voices, so relentlessly and courageously. You will not only read about issues in Satya that other magazines don’t want to touch, but you will read new or forgotten or unheard writers making connections other magazines don’t make in a venue where the grassroots guerrilla always trumps the grandiose grandee.

It was my hope that Satya would become a kind of self-contained representation of the enormous diversity of this city, the country, and the planet—a venue for progressive thought that saw the world as an interconnected whole and demanded of its members to reach out to each other—and I think that is what it has become. As Satya goes, so goes the world: for none of it is possible without all of us allowing one or two of us to make it possible. I hope you will continue to support the magazine and tell others about it. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, perhaps over the next ten years we can tip the balance in favor of the planet and the other species who share it with us.

Martin Rowe is the founder of Lantern Books, a publisher dedicated to vegetarianism, environmentalism, and animal advocacy (www.lanternbooks.com). He is the author of Nicaea: A Book of Correspondences and editor of The Way of Compassion: Survival Strategies for a World in Crisis, a collection of essays and interviews from the first five years of Satya. You can read more of his writing at www.martin-rowe.com.

 


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