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Letter from the Editor

Why I Ain't Blue

All those problems out there? They've got solutions

Sometimes the news in these pages is good, sometimes bad
-- even very bad. So I was thinking to myself: Why am I not depressed? For one thing, experience tells me that embedded within each problem is its solution. I come across people all the time who, when encountering something broken -- a flawed policy, a marred landscape, an inefficient motor -- instantly see an opportunity to fix it, maybe even improve it, at the very least understand it. And then there are those who simply confront the unknown confident of unveiling its secrets.

That's why you've got to admire genetics pioneer J. Craig Venter, who not long ago cracked the code of the human genome. Venter subsequently spent two years touring the Atlantic Ocean in his vessel, Sorcerer II, discovering hundreds of thousands of previously unknown forms of life. The knowledge he brought back to land could lead us to new (and surprising) sources of energy and will undoubtedly open our eyes to the sea's unfathomed possibilities.

Sharon Levy, one of our contributing editors, possesses a similar inquisitiveness, and her fascinations too yield interesting discoveries. In researching our cover story, she learned something rather shocking about the nearly invisible life of bees. When you bite into a luscious apple or pear or grab a handful of almonds or cherries, you may occasionally think about the farmer who grew those foods. But how often have you contemplated the bees that pollinated the blossoms that produced the fruit that you adore? American agriculture depends on bees that are literally carted around from state to state, pollinating farmers' crops. But these diminutive, underappreciated laborers are now endangered by pesticides and poor land management. This is what so intrigued me about Levy's story: There is a crisis unfolding that has huge consequences (though its protagonists are small), and yet I'd never heard anything about it until now. And yes, there are good solutions.

As opposed to bad solutions. No amount of drilling, for example, is ever going to solve our shortage of clean, renewable energy. Yet throughout the Rocky Mountain states, the oil and gas industries are digging tens of thousands of wells on public and private lands. The day is fast approaching when we will wake up, as people in these states are already doing, to discover that vast expanses of wilderness -- places that hikers, families, anglers, hunters, and tourists all consider sacred -- are simply gone. Go to the map and take a close look at the state of Wyoming: You'll get a very quick, gut-wrenching idea of what is at stake.

I believe in the power of the senses. Flip through these pages and you'll see a number of stirring images. Explore OnEarth's rich new world of podcasts ( podcasts and throughout our website) and you'll hear photographers, journalists, beekeepers, and poets. All these sounds, images, and words, the poetry and the conversation, taken together amount to a multisensory hologram of our planet. We can't promise it will all be good news, but it is all promising. Each door you open -- each icon you click on -- leads to another place abundant with possibilities. There are no dead ends here, only undiscovered paths.

Douglas S. Barasch

The Vanishing Bee
Wrecking the Rockies
Paradise Drowned
In Verse

Hear related podcasts

Jacques LeslieJacques Leslie ("Six Hundred Feet and Rising") is the author of Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People, and the Environment, published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The book won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award and was named one of the top science books of the year by Discover.

Lynn JohnsonPhotojournalist Lynn Johnson ("Wrecking the Rockies") was trained as a hazardous-rescue worker. Her slight, 5-foot-1-inch frame belies her fearlessness in physically demanding settings: She's shimmied up radio towers and dangled from helicopters for magazines such as National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, and Newsweek.

Mary OliverWinner of a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, poet and OnEarth contributing editor Mary Oliver ("Meeting the Fox") has been teaching us for more than four decades to savor the surprise and wisdom of the natural world. Her next book, Thirst, comprising three long poems, will be published in October by Beacon Press.

Dan WintersDan Winters ("The Vanishing") may be best known for his award-winning celebrity portraiture and his coverage of science, but he's also a former beekeeper. He's actually holding that honeycomb with his bare hands. Winters is a regular contributor to magazines such as Esquire, Vanity Fair, the New York Times Magazine, and Rolling Stone.

Photos: Leslie: Andrew Wernick; Johnson: Randy Olsen; Oliver: Barbara Savage Cheresh; Winters: Tom Gugler

OnEarth. Summer 2006
Copyright 2006 by the Natural Resources Defense Council