Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dana Meadows' 7th Death Anniversary

January 20th was the death anniversary of Donella (Dana) Meadows. She was an internationally recognized scholar and environmentalist. She co-authored The Limits to Growth and Beyond the Limits, among others. She received a Pugh Fellowship and a MacArthur Genius Grant. Her columns on environmental issues, sustainability and systems thinking made the important ideas in those fields of study/public policy accessible to wide audiences. For a period of time, we collaborated closely and then, for reasons that seem trivial in retrospect, we stopped. After years of not meeting , face to face, circumstances brought us back together and we were considering how we might collaborate once again. Soon afterwards, Dana died.

Though I am not a Buddhist, I have adopted the Buddhist custom of remembering some death anniversaries. Here is a favorite quote from one of Dana's columns that I have posted in my kitchen. It seems appropriate in a post-holiday season that has witnessed a death in my own family and in the families of three close colleagues and friends.

Life and Death on a Farm
Dana Meadows, November 1986

You don’t have to live on a farm very long before you come to terms with life and death, with all the Novembers when you kill last spring’s lambs and start next spring’s lambs. It is not that you become hard or unfeeling; rather you become accepting. You see life and death as a cycle or a continuum. You see that deaths are necessary for the balance of the farm, so that the ratios of rams and ewes and sheep and pastures will be right. You know that there will be beautiful meat to feed people, that not only the soil but all of nature turns death into new life, that in spite of all the death in the world, life persists. The whole process takes on a mysterious beauty and dignity. November, with its pervasive death isn’t the exciting high of April when the lambs are born and the daffodils bloom, but it’s the serene time of preparation for April; April couldn’t happen without it.

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