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 United Church Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. 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!

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

Standing up for Canadian values

Video

ObserverDocs: First World War Centenary

by Observer Staff

This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War. And still, the images of film and the words of poets from that era resonate today.

Retrospect

July 2015

Bosnia’s invisible war

by Mike Milne

A relief convoy carrying church aid finds determination amid destruction in a forgotten corner of former Yugoslavia — September, 1996

Justice

May 2015

Broken dreams in Little Mogadishu

by Andrew Livingstone

Canada's Somali community continues to struggle with higher-than-average levels of violence, unemployment and discrimination

Society

March 2015

Beyond Ferguson

by Alicia von Stamwitz

Did Michael Brown’s shooting death in Missouri last August reawaken the civil rights movement?

World

June 2015

‘Es complicado’

by Christopher White

Nothing about Cuba is straightforward or simple — including its impending reconciliation with the United States

Justice

June 2015

Grim reminders

by Pieta Woolley

What should be done with Canada’s remaining Indian residential school buildings?

Faith

June 2015

'Do we still believe that something vital is in the making?'

by Phyllis Airhart

The United Church of Canada at 90