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[GreenYes] Tribute to Donella Meadows
A friend of mine, who is a lovely writer and knew Donella Meadows, wrote
this tribute for the Tidepool news service in Portland. The passing of
this humble giant of the sustainability movement fills me both with
sadness and a feeling that it's time for more of us to step up to the
plate and help to fill the void she has left behind.

Cindy Pollock Shea

By Edward C. Wolf

650 words

 Like clockwork, each Friday morning the first link I follow on Tidepool
is the one to the latest “Global Citizen” column by Donella Meadows.
There I’ve come to expect insight served up with grace, commentary that
offers a gentle education about things that really count. I’m never
 Each month I have looked forward even more eagerly to a modest little
newsletter that arrives in my mailbox, Xeroxed on plain paper, bearing
the simple greeting “Dear folks.” The newsletter was Dana’s way of
sharing her most recent columns and a more personal recounting of her
work and life with a group of “subscribers” who, I’m sure, all thought
of ourselves as Dana’s extended family. It was pure delight.
 And absolutely characteristic of Dana to find such a way, in the midst
of a press of commitments most of us can scarcely imagine, to build and
nourish community.
 I came to be one of the “folks” thirteen years ago, when Dana and I
worked together for a short time on companion materials for a
documentary series called “Race to Save the Planet.” Since then, a
connection with Dana has been one of the reassuring continuities of my
professional life.
 Dana was a wonderful writer, whose clarity, conviction, and passion
advanced sustainability over nearly thirty years. In every newspaper
column, essay, and book, Dana showed her unusual gift for making the
most complex issues -- from endocrine disrupters to campaign finance
reform -- accessible and tractable.
 Dana was a profound thinker, who wore her Ph.D. (in biophysics!)
lightly, looked at the world and saw systems, and drew eclectically from
a smorgasbord of disciplines from physics to Sufi wisdom. A teacher who
thought to begin an environmental studies textbook with a chapter on
mindsets, to help students see that we all bring to the world a lens of
our own devising that colors the problems we perceive and the solutions
we propose.
 Dana lived her principles fully. Cultivating the land at Foundation
Farm, the communal farm in the Connecticut River valley that was her
home for 27 years. Cultivating a worldwide network of systems thinkers
and doers who met each year at a lake in Hungary. Cultivating a vision
of sustainability achieved through community, which became the Cobb Hill
Cohousing project and the Sustainability Institute.
 As attuned to the evidence of seasons outside her doorstep as to the
latest scientific findings on climate change, Dana brought global to
local together in a compelling and authentic way.
 I grieve at knowing I won’t feel the warm embrace of those words, “Dear
folks,” again. I’ll miss those monthly stories of farm life: lambs born,
sheep escaped to neighbors’ pastures, the latest offerings of the seed
catalogues. I’ll miss imagining Dana composing her letter in the farm
kitchen to strains of Verdi and the aroma of baking loaves.
 Most of all, I will miss the passionate, informed conviction expressed
by each “Global Citizen” column – and the things she hadn’t had a chance
to tell us yet. About the human genome project, for example. About
global warming. About why an Office of Faith-Based Programs might serve
neither faith nor community needs. I will wonder why every editorial
page couldn’t make space for this intelligent and loving voice, this
voice we so manifestly need, amid the ideological clatter that passes
for debate on public policy today.
 Dana Meadows’ extraordinary life’s work and her untimely death offer a
few simple lessons:

 Life is unexpectedly fragile.
 Life is unbearably precious.
 Life is an unknowable mystery that seeks always to teach, whether or
not we are prepared to learn.

Wherever our convictions lead us and wherever our homes place us, Dana
would say, we must not take the communities we build together for
granted. With her spirit in our hearts, we can never do too much to
build the just and healthy world that we can imagine – and that we

Edward C. Wolf is communications director at Ecotrust, in Portland,

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