Blog 01: Emergence
By Sumedha Rao
"But man does not create... he discovers."
– Antoni Gaudi
The sustainability movement is a story of humanity’s grand plan for survival. Standing in the way of humans’ sustained and peaceful existence are many risks varying in scale, complexity, and threat: ecosystem instability, resource scarcity, socio-political conflict, and uncertainty in the face of rapidly evolving technology.
Scientific, fact-based, quantitative, and often doomsday-like accounts dominate the way these complex stories are told in today’s discourse on these issues. While the voice of science is unquestionably critical to our narrative, it only tells a part of the story. In the face of existential threat, political upheaval, rapid change, unprecedented innovation, and diverse perspectives, how does one process, emote, engage, and respond? We hear the voice of reason loud and clear, but where are the voices of emotion, creativity, conflict, inspiration, fear, or love?
One afternoon just over two years ago, I sat engrossed in a conversation in a quiet corner of the Newman Center Café at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with Dr. Craig Nicolson, my advisor, and friend, to discuss this issue. When I first shared with Dr. Nicolson that I felt like we needed more diverse voices in sustainability, I feared his response might be unenthusiastic; I was straying a little too far from my traditional discipline. How wrong I was! To my delight, he excitedly described to me over the next several minutes, a long time dream he had – a journal of sustainability and the literary arts, which provided a dedicated space for the exploration of culture and expression in sustainability. And thus, Paperbark was born.
What ensued over the next several weeks, was a journey that opened my eyes to the hidden world of creative sustainability. I spent the following months seeking out more leaders and voices in the field with Dr. Nicolson’s guidance. I found poets, writers, journalists, designers, students, bloggers, academics, religious leaders, and even several other magazines that, in multiple creative ways, brought voice and influence to the sustainability movement. Many of these wonderful people have now become a part of our Paperbark community.
Originally called Book & Plow, as a tribute to the little New England town of Amherst in which this idea was sowed, we wanted the magazine to create something truly meaningful that would add value to our community. As I described to Craig Nicolson (now Co-Founder of Paperbark), Max Dilthey (now Managing Editor of Paperbark), and others in the beginning of this magazine, “There have been two kinds of good books in my life. The exciting un-put-down-able kind that keeps its readers eagerly turning pages, or the ones you can never finish, because each piece gives you so much to reflect on, that the book becomes less of a story in itself, and more of a means to uncovering your own story. I want us to be the second kind.”
Paperbark has evolved over the last three years to bring us to this day, when we are finally able to invite your participation in preparation for our Debut issue: Emergence. While the vision for the magazine has evolved since the beginning, our original intent remains a core part of our mission: Paperbark is a place for us all not just to tell the truth about our collective future on earth, but to collectively discover our own journeys at the confluence of truth, expression, and sustainability.