Sharing Our Views of the World

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Issue 296
May/June 2016
Days of Hope

Resurgence50

Sharing Our Views of the World
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issue cover 296

Cover: A montage of past Resurgence mastheads

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Jonathon Porritt reflects on a much-needed forum for intellectual exchange.

Jonathon Porritt © S. Daly June 2014

Jonathon Porritt © S. Daly June 2014

Imagine that Resurgence didn’t exist. Imagine that you and a group of like-minded colleagues decided that the world badly needed a new publication that would have a number of critical ingredients: topical sustainability updates, campaigning news, an uncompromising spiritual orientation, regular articles on the arts, lots of good poetry, serious book reviews, and articles from the best writers in the world of sustainable development, covering the whole spectrum from politics to philosophy to lifestyle to science and practical case studies. All brought together in a print format that looks beautiful, with the highest production values, together with a compelling digital platform, with a minuscule editorial team and a minimal operating budget.

After a brilliant brainstorming session (and several bottles of the best biodynamic wine), you sign off on your prospectus and send it off hopefully to the half-dozen best-known magazine publishing houses in the UK.

Within a week, you have six succinct responses, all saying the same thing: you must be completely mad! Your prospectus is unfocused; incoherent; worthy; massively over-ambitious. Do yourselves a big favour, and stick to the day job.

So for Resurgence still to be thriving, 50 years on, doing all of the above and more, is rather remarkable!

And this is of huge significance to all those individuals out there who see themselves (explicitly or implicitly) as part of a progressive social movement where concerns about the environment or social justice or human rights or animal welfare or the arts are all integrated in a much more holistic worldview. There are so few places (online or in print) where that kind of worldview can be explored and shared with imagination and total integrity.

By and large, these are the same people who see no need to prioritise science over spirituality or vice versa, and who can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t be passionate about both.

If there is a bias in Resurgence, however, it’s to give plenty of space to those commentators who feel pretty hostile about the dogma of materialism – and about those who argue that there is no reality other than material reality. How reassuring, therefore, to see the pluralism of Resurgence confirmed in the recent article (Issue 294) celebrating the wonderful Murray Bookchin, much of whose work was excoriating about environmentalists drifting off into the world of pseudo-spiritual eco-la-la!

But can it really work, combining all of those cultural and reflective inputs with more of a political and activist orientation? Twice in its history, Resurgence has administered its own corrective action to stop it drifting off into the world of eco-la-la: first, combining with Undercurrents, a streetwise, rough-and-ready, provocatively iconoclastic publication; and then with the Ecologist (a couple of years after that magazine had gone digital-only) with all its campaigning vigour and radicalism.

That combination clearly doesn’t work for everyone – I remember some readers at the time of the merger with the Ecologist complaining that it had disturbed the Resurgence serenity. By contrast, I was worried at the time that the unremittingly gentle style of Resurgence might sanitise the more raw and confrontational positioning of the Ecologist. I don’t think that’s happened – though it has to be said there’s more of that gutsy, unreconstructed Ecologist voice online than there is in print.

I started reading Resurgence, issue by issue, more than 40 years ago. It’s hard for me to explain just how much it has meant to me during that time, as my very own publishing gift that has just gone on giving.

Jonathon Porritt is Founder Director of Forum for the Future (www.forumforthefuture.org), a writer and a campaigner. During his career he has been a prominent member of the Green Party, director of Friends of the Earth UK (1984 to 1990) and chair of the British government’s Sustainable Development Commission (1997 to 2009).

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