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Letter from the Editor

Two years ago, before OnEarth became OnEarth, we went through the soul-scrutinizing process of coming up with a new name. This magazine used to be The Amicus Journal, a publication written mostly by and for environmental professionals. Over the years we've become a magazine for all environmentalists, and our venerable but legalistic name didn't fit any more.

Changing your name isn't easy. Three editors, many editorial board members, and assorted friends and colleagues sat through several brainstorming sessions and came up with about a thousand ideas. Most were lousy: Digger, Dweller, Apex . A few were brilliant but taken, like Nature . A few were very strange: Jewel (?). And a few were hilarious but unprintable.

The best of the rejects, however, was a suggestion by Nancy Butkus, our recently retired (and greatly missed) art director: The Big Bummer Journal.

We admit it. We have our grim side. Global warming, tropical deforestation, species extinction, water pollution, endocrine disruptors... Cosmo we ain't. Years ago we briefly tried putting funny essays on our back page, but had to give it up. There just aren't that many writers out there who specialize in side-splitting jokes about acid rain.

We do try, dear reader, to offer you some fun when we can. Don't be surprised by the three full-page, full-color ads in the middle of this issue. OnEarth hasn't started taking advertisements; these are the work of associate editor Jason Best and our new art director, Gail Ghezzi (whom we are delighted to welcome for her inaugural issue). Jason's article "The Splice Age" (p. 24) shows you how enticing biotech consumer products will look if they are allowed on the market.

OnEarth also regularly covers environmental solutions. And we look for hope. "Resurrection" (p. 34), a short essay by David Case about the Indonesian archipelago of Krakatau, tells us that the environment is resilient: If we humans can get our act together, the biosphere can still heal itself.

But we make no apologies for covering the bad news. In this issue, we look particularly at public health. The cover story by Kimi Eisele reminds us that more and more Americans live with asthma, and that the air pollution most of us feel free to ignore is a constant threat for them. "Dispatch from Toxic Town" (p. 30), by Tara Hulen, takes us to an ordinary middle-class American town where people live with extraordinary toxic contamination. No one should have to experience the fears the citizens of Anniston endure daily.

Yes, it's heavy stuff. But we're proud of our record of exploring environmental problems, prouder still of our role in speaking up for those who suffer from environmental harm. It's because of you, our readers, that we can publish stories like these. We thank you for your dedication to the environment.

Kathrin Day Lassila

OnEarth. Winter 2003
Copyright 2002 by the Natural Resources Defense Council