by M.R. Branwen
I'M PRETTY SURE THAT, between the writing and the photographs, this issue of Slush Pile visits all seven continents.
I myself have only visited five, and the one that makes for the the most jaw-dropping when I say it is Antarctica. That’s right, folks, I went frolicking with penguins and hiking up glaciers. I jumped into the Antarctic Sea. It was, without question, one of the most amazing trips of my life. But I try not to bring it up too often in conversation, because, let’s be honest, nobody wants to hear about your trip that was more fantastic and remote than any trip they have taken or are likely to take.
Having said that, I have dedicated this issue to places that are more remote and fantastic than most people are likely to visit. Cruel? Perhaps. But the reason I am doing it to inspire you to action on an issue that is close to my heart: climate change (or, the phenomenon formerly known as “global warming”).
I am going to assume that if you are reading this magazine, you belong to a demographic familiar enough with the facts to accept human-induced climate change as a matter of fact. The reason I felt compelled to create a whole issue around this theme is that, though I have considered myself a environmentalist for years, I had no idea how pressing the matter had become until I was, by incredible happenstance (and because I am beloved by a few persons who are far more important in the greater social order than I am), invited to attend a forum on global climate change that was being hosted by Al Gore in Antarctica [Sir Bob Watson gives a wonderful introduction to the trip in his piece Sailing South], and which entailed hours of lectures by climate scientists, marine biologists, and naturalists. Being, then, much more informed on the situation, I was inspired to action. And this issue about the ‘issue’ — my small contribution to the greater good — is a result.
Small though it may be in the grand scheme, for an issue of Slush Pile, it is a behemoth and I find myself unsure of where to begin introducing it. So I’m going to begin with Jacqueline Novogratz. Jacqueline Novogratz was the first person I met from the Antarctica trip when we arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires and I am embarrassed to say that I did not know who she was. She and her husband Chris Anderson (this guy) were stuck next to us in the long customs’ line. Over the course of the ten days that we spent together, she became one of my heros. Lots of people think about making the world better; few people get their hands dirty making a contribution. And fewer still work tirelessly for decades at the task, and with as much passion, dedication and intelligence as Jacqueline Novogratz. She wrote a book, called The Blue Sweater, that traces her journey from investment banking to effective philanthropy. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You should buy a copy for yourself and for every friend or relative with an upcoming birthday. The Blue Bakery is an excerpt from her book that I painstakingly edited and abridged to meet a word count restriction, so that’s a good place to start.
Also in non-fiction is a piece by Ari Friedlaender, a cetologist that I met on the Antarctica trip (that’s a whale scientist, to spare you the Googling). In addition to writing a fantastic piece for me about whales, he has also contributed some stunning photography, which you can find in the Art Section, along with the travel photography of Michelle Weitzel: photographer, adventure traveler, and hobby cultural anthropologist.
Rounding out the non-fiction is a great piece from the archives by J.D. Riso that takes us to the deep jungle.
The fiction this issue features a few pieces that are on topic and a few that are not. Again pulling a couple of my favorites from the archives that fit the theme are The Oakland Hills Bird Society, a piece set in a hypothetical future in which birds have all but gone extinct, by Suzanne Barnecut, and a rumination on farming, family and global warming, Farmers’ Almanac by Chris Klingbeil. New on the theme is another fantastic piece by William Weitzel who you will remember from Issue Twelve. Straying a bit from the theme, we have some poetry/flash fiction from Stella Padnos-Shea and two longer, lovely pieces from Slush Pile new-comers Damian Caudill & Kathryn Roberts. Those stories both broke my heart a little, but in a good way.
And as if I had not already overwhelmed you with such a robust issue, I decided to throw in some travel writing from a few quintessential adventure travelers of yore: Captain Cook, John Muir, and Ernest Shackleton. Because I love the fact that things fall out of copyright and I am allowed to do that.
The upshot of this issue is to inspire a fraction of the awe that I rediscovered on my recent trip to Antarctica and, hopefully, a corresponding impulse to protect our natural resources. Because wouldn’t it be nice of us to leave the planet for future generations with wild animals still living on it? With drinking water and air that can be breathed? Trees and farmland? Oceans with functioning ecosystems?
I’m just one little editor, but I think that would be nice.
— Mister Branwen