Editor’s note: After 30 years of publishing Orion, founder M.G.H. Gilliam announced in the November/December issue that he would be leaving the magazine. What follows is his final publisher’s note, in which he assesses the challenges we face with clarity.
With this issue of Orion I will be stepping down as publisher and turning over to others the work I started thirty years ago. My hope from the beginning was for a publication that celebrated the wisdom and beauty of the natural world in the belief that humanity will respect and protect that which it comes to know and love—a publication in which both the literary and visual arts would communicate the conviction that humans are responsible for the world in which we live and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature.
Since the inaugural issue, Orion has sought to explore how to achieve harmony between nature, which sustains and supports all life on earth, and our civil institutions, which provide governance and justice, goods and services, and address humanity’s physical needs and desires. Orion has also aimed to reflect on the qualitative values that nurture the soul and strengthen our will, while highlighting the growing understanding of the quantitative limits to resource extraction and untenable pollution. Both these approaches are essential if we are to form an ethical framework within which our existence on this planet may be sustained.
Much has changed in the three decades since the magazine was launched, and the matters with which Orion’s early authors grappled appear humble when compared to the urgent challenges humanity faces today. Climate change, the population crisis, and the extreme methods of extracting the earth’s remaining resources dwarf the environmental issues that Orion addressed in 1982. Perhaps most alarming of all is a political and corporate culture the seems less and less interested in understanding the truth of what is happening in the world, and less and less inclined to demand sane policy. At the same time, I take heart in the groundswell of activism and activist groups that have emerged during those same three decades and that do so much good work.
The problems caused by rampant consumerism, the acceptance of short-term fixes, and self-serving behavior with little or no willingness to make sacrifices are still the primary challenges, in my view, that face society. We need a way of exploring environmental issues that is realistic and honest, yet hopeful and inspirational. This will require an increasing attempt to learn from nature: what will nature permit us to do before it is likely to destroy us? If the primary role of government is to protect the rights of individuals and defend the nation, we must figure out how to disconnect money’s influence on the election of government officials and on the legislative process. If the role of business is to provide goods and services, how do we encourage its leaders and shareholders to take the focus off bottom-line profits and to encourage sustainability rather than heedless consumption? And if culture’s role is to be an arbiter capable of creating balance between the governmental and economic areas of activity, how do we foster a culture that is based on moral and spiritual values that will demand equitable treatment for all living creatures?
It is my hope—and belief—that Orion inspires its readers to strive for a vision of life on earth that is just, and that the magazine, in its small way, makes the world a kinder place. I thank you, dear friends, writers, and artists, and all the members, past and present, of my Orion team for the honor of being a part of this special constellation.