Treehugger Interview: Earth Island Journal Editor Jason Mark


The Earth Island Journal "combines investigative journalism and thought-provoking essays that make the subtle but profound connections between the environment and other contemporary issues." It does, indeed. I interviewed the Journal's editor, Jason Mark, via email on his magazine, how he balances farming and writing, and what it was like to be media mogul Arianna Huffington's press secretary during her failed California gubernatorial run in 2003.Tell us about Earth Island Journal. When was it started? By whom? What is your mission?

Earth Island Journal was started 25 years ago by David Brower, who was one of the leading figures of the 20th century environmental movement. Just like Brower's large format picture books that he published through the Sierra Club and his pioneering advocacy ads in the NY Times, the Journal was conceived as a way of using powerful images and evocative language to raise awareness about environmental issues.

Today, the Journal specializes in hard-hitting investigative journalism on the environment. With every issue we try to draw the connections between ecological sustainability and other pressing social issues and encourage people to better understand their place on the planet. We proudly practice a form of green advocacy journalism. We put our principles next to our reporting and we marshal the facts to make an argument. When there is an alarm to sound, we let out a yell. When we uncover solutions-focused victories, we rush to share them with readers, knowing that the headlines are all too often couriers of cynicism.

We have received a half dozen Project Censored Awards for uncovering stories ignored by larger media outlets. On three occasions, Utne Reader has recognized the Journal for top environmental coverage.

How often does it come out and how can people get it?

We come out four times a year. The Journal is sold at various independent bookstores, natural food groceries, and select Barnes & Noble stores. A badly incomplete list is here.

Most of our content is also available online at:

What are some of your favorite magazine pieces from the past few years?

Every single edition rocks! But some standouts during the three years I have been editor of the Journal include:

Tom Athanasiou's insightful analysis of the Copenhagen meltdown in our current Spring 2010 issue.

Elizabeth Grossman's report from a research ship in the Arctic Sea studying climate change in the Summer 2008 issue.

Our Q&A; with Annie Leonard of The Story of Stuff from the Winter 2010 issue.

A photo essay from the Spring 2008 edition by farmer-writer-photographer Michael Abelman (unfortunately this doesn't re-produce so well online).

And, if I can be so immodest, my essay about geoengineering in the Autumn 2009 issue.

How do you balance your week at the Journal with your other work at your farm?

I spend 4 days a week editing the Journal and doing other freelance writing for places like, The Progressive, Alternet. I then get to spend two days a week co-managing a four-acre organic fruit and vegetable garden in San Francisco called Alemany Farm. It's a great privilege to be able to balance writing and farming. I feel like I'm living the dream.

What was your experience working as Arianna Huffington's press secretary during her run for governor like?

Strange. The whole 2003 recall election was just such a media circus. I remember when we went to the election's one major debate, and as we entered the parking lot one of Arianna's advisors, who had worked on a number of national campaigns, looked at the scene and said, "There's more media here than at a presidential debate."