IN THE MID 1908s, I was involved in one of those touchy-feely weekend retreats along with individuals from Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB). Among other things, we completed the Myers-Briggs personality test. My most vivid recollection of that meeting was when Vern Millard, the ERCB’s highly respected chair at the time and an economist by training, blurted out, “You mean that after all these years of tabulating statistics, numbers, and cause and effect, what people really want is warm and fuzzy assurances that the gas plant being built nearby won’t affect their kids?”

It was a pivotal moment when Millard recognized that spreadsheets weren’t enough; the ERCB had to deal with people and their emotions too. It’s a lesson that continues to elude even the most caring environmental practitioners. Stephen Hill writes a feature story in this issue on green energy and conservation. He discusses the social friction inherent in siting renewable energy projects: “Dealing with people can be messy and slow, particularly compared to working with energy flows and financial projections.”

We are learning that the environmental benefits of wind energy don’t mean that plans to erect turbines in people’s backyards can be made in private behind closed doors. Moreover, Ontario’s new Green Energy and Green Economy Act may be giving renewables a chance to eliminate the province’s need for nuclear power, according to York University’s Mark Winfield. But the act may fail if efforts to streamline approvals ignore those in local communities who are best-equipped to deal with people’s needs.

Perhaps Robert Gibson sums it up best in the first edition of his new column What’s the Big Idea, “The only hope for sustainability is seeing ecology, economy and society as interdependent, and finding ways to serve all three at once, in ways that are mutually reinforcing.”

With this issue, we’re debuting three columns in addition to Gibson’s Big Idea. If you’re tired of those beautiful “Sierra-Club-moment” calendars, read Mark Meisner’s Kulturträger, and his musings on culture and the environment. Jeff Beyer, a researcher with the Delphi Group in Ottawa, wades through the complex world of climate change policy in Eye of the Storm. Plus, Ryan David Kennedy, our original Brain Mulcher, takes his humour-with-a-message­ column to the front of the magazine where he is joined by cartoonist Gareth Lind’s illustrated take on enviropolitics, Footprint In Mouth.

We’ve borrowed the advice that our regular contributor Stephen Bocking presents in his review of James Meadowcroft’s new book. Finding Alternatives’ role “demands a realistic awareness of how the environmental landscape has evolved and an imaginative embrace of the creative opportunities this presents.” We hope that you like our changes and look forward to your feedback.

Nicola Ross is the former Editor of Alternatives Journal, and is a member of the editorial board.

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