UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Alternatives

Peer-reviewed journal about the environment leaves room for lightness

By Jasmine Budak

Alternatives
Edited by Nicola Ross
(Published by Alternatives Inc.) $6.95


Alternatives bills itself as a hybrid publication. Part academic journal, part consumer magazine, it features the latest scholarly take on environmental issues presented in the accessible, entertaining format of a glossy. Since 1971, when Alternatives debuted out of Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., its raison d’être has remained as simple as it was innovative: stir the public into action by well-informed, forward-thinking research. And the formula has worked for 40 years.

The magazine, published six times a year, was born at a time when the eco-movement was gaining ground in the mainstream. Organizations such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund were just launching. Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book Silent Spring was awakening the public to a looming environmental health crisis. At that time, Alternatives’ earliest issues were assembled by a professor and student — an operation that ran on volunteer sweat and featured some of today’s most influential eco-thinkers, including Naomi Klein and Elizabeth May. (In 1984, its editorial office moved to the University of Waterloo, and it continues to operate from the southern Ontario campus.)

The journal’s tagline is “environmental ideas + action,” and each issue is loosely centred on a general theme, which ranges from tangible subjects (work, education and books) to philosophical concepts or academic theories (“outer limits” and “building resilience”). Alternatives covers what you’d expect in an eco-mag — climate change, sustainable food production, water and waste. But its content also veers into the science of Kenyan rainmakers, the search for habitable planets, health care and social income, wealth and happiness, as well as interviews with today’s top environmentalists, including Indian philosopher and activist Vandana Shiva.

Though it is a thoroughly researched, peer-reviewed journal, Alternatives also leaves room for lightness. Every few issues you’ll find an eco-themed comic series or crossword puzzle. And despite the magazine’s coverage of sombre and sobering subjects, it speaks with a voice that is ideal for the eco-movement: deeply knowledgeable, lightly humorous, open-minded, non-judgmental and accessible to the masses.

Jasmine Budak is a freelance writer in Toronto.

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

The fire that scattered a flock

Promotional Image

Video

Merle Robillard

ObserverDocs: Out of Syria

by Observer Staff

For nearly half a century, the Elnabrees family has fled one war after another: Palestine, Kuwait, Iraq and, more recently, Syria. This year, they arrived as refugees in Canada, sponsored by relatives and United churches. Ayman Elshafiy, his wife, Sonia, their two daughters, his sister and mother, were among them.

Promotional Image

Faith

July 2016

Mr. Trump comes to Cleveland

by Mark Giuliano

The eyes of the world will be focused on the Republican National Convention this month. A landmark church near the meeting site is offering a warm welcome while bracing for unrest.

Faith

July 2016

Does religion really make you happier?

by Samantha Rideout

The writer examines the popular theory that people with faith are more content than those without

Interviews

July 2016

Interview with Sister Helen Prejean

by Alicia von Stamwitz

The Roman Catholic nun, prominent American anti-death penalty activist and author of the bestselling 'Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty That Sparked a National Debate' talks about racism, human dignity and America’s broken criminal justice system

Society

June 2016

All the lonely people

by André Picard

An estimated six million Canadians live in isolation. Social researchers are now calling it a hidden epidemic.

Society

May 2016

Are vegans right?

by David Macfarlane

The writer is in the midst of a radical six-month change of diet. He’s discovering that no cheeseburger tastes as good as being ethical feels.

Faith

March 2016

The Walrus Talks Spirituality

by Observer Staff

Promotional Image
Promotional Image