The Orion Mission

The New Year is a time of new beginnings, and at Orion we’re kicking off our new year by announcing a new mission statement—one that we hope distills the service the magazine strives to provide and that captures the experience it aspires to create. This is the first revision to the mission statement in over a decade, and we welcome your thoughts about it in the comment section below.

Orion magazine invites readers into a community of caring for the planet. Through writing and art that explore the connection between nature and culture, Orion inspires new thinking about how humanity might live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyously.

Many thanks for your support in 2013—we look forward to another year of presenting you with the best writing and visual art about nature and how we shape a better future.

—H. Emerson Blake


  1. Here’s my suggestion: change the mission statement with three additional words:

    Orion magazine invites readers into a community of caring for the planet and each other. Through writing and art that explore the connection between nature and culture, Orion inspires new thinking about how humanity might live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyously.

  2. I like it with Karen’s added 3 words: “…and each other.”

  3. I love the new statement, especially the words “planet” and “Earth.”

  4. It’s a beautiful mission statement. Just to say how it struck me, the word “thinking” seemed to be a little mechanical or cause-and-effect. Orion seems to me to seek after something different from applied science. Im not sure I have a better word, but there’s a vast literature connecting nature to spirituality which might inspire some more romantic candidates for that role.

  5. I like the new statement and also agree with the suggested change by Karen in the first comment. Nicely done!

  6. Orion magazine invites readers into a community of caring for the planet. Through writing and art that explore the connection between nature and culture, Orion inspires new thinking
    (and action directed toward helping humanity to live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyously.…)
    about how humanity might live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyously.

  7. Like it. Like it even better eith the suggested addition of “…and each other”.

  8. I love the new mission statement! It’s very inviting; it manages to encompass all the large, important issues within its brevity. I also like Karen’s addition.

  9. Reading the new mission statement induced in me the most visceral quickening: Of integrity and intention. Of connectivity and creativity. All I can say, beloved Orion, is count me in.

  10. how beautifully you have stated your new purpose. The last word, “joyously” is so upbeat, so hopeful in the world where there is so much animosity. Thank-you for seeing things this way….

  11. The words are wonderful, any of the variations, but wonder what that means with regards to implementation….

  12. Orion’s mission statement is clear and concise, inviting and hopeful. Creativity and inspiration will help our efforts in common to enable sustainable healthy lives for all of creation on Earth. I suggest “thinking” could be replaced by “discoveries” which may reflect better a more holistic response which includes mind, body and spirit in the pursuit of justice, a sustainable life and joy for all. Good work Orion!

  13. I like the comments but I wonder about the word”inspire”. How is Orion going to guide new thinking? You mention nothing in the mission statement as to how you are going to change someones “thinking” to be “new thinking”. I would use aspire – change it to be “Orion aspires to provide new views about how humanity might live on Earth….”

  14. Love the new Mission Statement and agree with Karen’s additional three words. Question: How did the magazine title, Orion, get selected? Seems there could have been better mythological choices.

  15. Good thinking going on here! I endorse Karen’s addition of ‘and each other’, and Frank’substitution of ‘discovery’ for ‘thinking’.

    The last word, ‘joyously’always raises the New Age-jargon red flag for me, as it has been co-opted to stand for living inside our own small bubble instead of the wide world with its many opportunities for joy but also its need to be deeply grieved for.

  16. May i suggest changing the word “sustainably” that has little meaning nowadays, to “peacefully” or “respectfully”?

    i also think that beautiful words, dreams and visions need to be realistic and doable.

  17. My $.02 on top of a well-considered statement:
    “Orion magazine invites readers into a community of caring for the planet AND EACH OTHER. Through writing and art that explore the RELATIONSHIP between nature and culture, Orion CREATES new POSSIBILITIES FOR LIFE on Earth THAT IS JUST, SUSTAINABLE and JOYOUS.”

  18. When I first the read the statement in my inbox, I loved it immediately. Simple and compelling.

    Now that I’ve read the comments, I agree Karen’s suggestion is a meaningful addition.

    And I wonder, do you want to inspire your readers/community to only “think”? If yes, then the statement is sufficient. If Orion’s mission is to inspire us to “do” as well, then perhaps the statement should encompass this.

  19. “You can’t act locally by thinking globally. If you want to keep your local acts from destroying the globe, you must think locally.” – Wendell Berry

    The mission and paradigm most relevant now is about PLACE, placemaking, localism & locaphelia. It is the fundamental argument of Berry’s work so I think this mission statement flunks it. Being better stewards of our place, past & environment – that’s more like it. We need a magazine – perhaps this magazine – to do that. “Sustainability” is a junk word that doesn’t mean anything. Justly – social justice – not against that nor against caring for the planet. But there are plenty of outlet for social justice. In my view the beauty and value of Orion is that it was always about love and affection for places that matter and environmental stewardship. Please GET BACK.

  20. I like the new mission statement! I have a hard time being joyful, so this is a great reminder. I wonder, is Derrick Jensen ever joyful?

  21. I would have liked to see the words “in harmony” somewhere. I like the statement but it still seems to separate and set humanity above the whole of nature and the environment. Isn’t the fact that humans see themselves above, or in dominion over, nature one of the main reasons our planet is in such a state today?

  22. Liking the work in progress!

    And, how can you enhance the “thinking” & help us translate thought into action?

  23. The mission statement looks great to me although I might have added something about thinking outside the cultural box.

    Some folks seem to have a problem with the inclusion of the word “sustainably”. Well if you can come up with a better word that carries the idea of living in a manner that takes the future into account by all means offer it. Substantively it seems essential to the mission statement.


  24. And how about:
    Orion generates inspiration about how we might live on Earth justly, respectfully, sustainably and joyously.

  25. Good road to travel as upon the awakening of a new century and the beginning of a period of ‘Enlightenment.’ should be lots of material, no doubt.

  26. Can we agree (probably not) that “sustainable” became a junk word within months of its arrival. It became code for a point of view – but really doesn’t mean anything and certainly does not suggest any coherent effective action. I love all this stuff and have been a devout environmentalist since 1970 when – in high school – we spent Earth Day picking up garbage along the roadsides in VT. Its an important way of thinking about life. But in the end the takeaway for me was loving VT – not thinking that my actions were somehow going to save the planet. Global aspirations are way to messianic for me. THINK LOCAL

  27. any aspiration can become messianic, local, national, global or even just at home… it depends upon how your psyche engages.. so while global aspirations might seem unmanageable or formidable at first glance, working for collaborative, global solutions for global problems like peace between nations or climate change is very down to earth, practical work… usually conducted through NGOs liked or, etc. it’s all good and necessary work….

  28. I just signed up for a two-year subscription, thinking that would be the best way to tell you how much I like your new mission statement and admire your work.

  29. The mission statement for Orion should definitely include the word “acton” and not just “thinking” about how to live on the planet justly,sustainably and joyously. At this moment in the history of life on Earth, action is most definitely called for.

    Although some are calling for “and each other” to expand the phrase “caring for the planet,” I think the expansion should be more along the lines of clarifying the interconnectedness of all life, not just “each other” which focuses too much on humans being cared for. In reality humans are just one part of a complex web of life and that web is being threatened because of human action. So, perhaps something like “Orion magazine invites readers into a community of caring for the planet in all of its interconnected diversity.”

  30. Orion magazine invites readers into a community of caring for the planet, OUR FELLOW SPECIES AND EACH OTHER. Through writing and art that explore the connection between nature and culture, Orion inspires new thinking AND ACTION THAT WILL ENABLE FUTURE GENERATIONS TO live on Earth IN HARMONY AND ECOLOGICAL BALANCE.

    Given that the medium- to long-term continuation of human civilisation does not seem remotely possible unless we rapidly transition to a viable, ecologically sound alternative to neoliberal capitalism, my joyousness is as constrained as Derrick Jensen’s.

  31. Your invitation into a community of caring for the planet (and each other) is compelling. It makes be want to join in and become an active partner with like minded people. And I do want to be inspired to think (and act) in just, respectable and joyous ways. I will certainly accept your invitation!

  32. Like the mission statement. don’t think we need the “3 ” words, but like Bobby Morgan’s suggestions—“action” and “inviting the community into a caring—–
    Don’t want to overemphasize the human part—‘we are all part of one another and part of this planet.”

  33. I love the new mission statement . . . And I accept the invitation!

  34. So many fine thoughts expressed concerning the new mission statement of Orion. Just want to say I find Orion attractive because it prints the careful and imaginative expressions of people living now — words and visions pulling from wide sources. The local reapplications of this consciousness is implied, as is ‘each other.’

    The problem of easily manipulated and rapidly evolving words such as ‘sustainable’ can be remedied with honest art. I belief Orion has already been, and hopefully will continue to be, a catalyst for honest art. ‘Honest art’ being the most impeccable expressions of the experience of being alive human beings can muster. Orion seems to be airing the expressions of these souls quite well, and for the benefit of us all…. meaning every aspect of Earth.

    I thank Orion for this Portal.

  35. I love the mission statement and love Orion! Just a couple thoughts: I agree that caring for our PLACES is necessary–I feel a bit of a chill when I hear environmentalists talk about “the planet” or “the earth”–those terms have too often been used in a context that is locality-obliterating. I also find that “sustainability” has lost its resonance–it sounds jargon-ish. Defining “justly” might allow what we meant by “sustainably” to acquire new power. In addition, I love the idea of Orion “inspiring” “discoveries”–puts more agency on the reader! Finally, would “nature-culture interactions” convey the idea of the dynamic back-and-forth that is so much more than a static “relationship?”

    In any event, the mission is good, the magazine is good–all these suggestions come about because Orion inspires us to give back!
    Good luck!!!!
    Best wishes,

  36. I like Karen Isaacson’s suggestion very much.

    I am happy to see a new mission. I attended Fire and Grit years ago and was very excited that Orion brought activists from all over together to share ideas and learn from each other and from facilitators. It was very exciting. Since then though the conferences have been for and of nature writers. The organization turned inward and focused on themselves rather than being the catalyst for environmental change and leadership to change our culture. I think Orion needs to be the focal point to bring new environmental leaders together. We need to develop the vision for our future could be something other than a consumer society that uses up as many resources as we can buy. We need to change education to include ecology and study of the earth as an essential part of education. We need to foster love of the earth, outdoor adventures so we can see the grandeur of the earth and come to love it passionately so we will work hard to protect it.

  37. I like Michael McBrides’ suggestion too. The focus is on action, not just thinking.

  38. I like the addition of and each other

    I would also add two further words
    Orion inspires new thinking AND ACTING so that humanity …etc

  39. Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful comments on the mission statement. We invite you to continue the discussion, and stay tuned for further reflections from Orion staff and board.

    Emily G.

  40. Orion inspires thoughtful dialogues about how humanity might live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyous.
    Rodin’s got the thinker, we’ve got eloquent dialogue with diversity of perspectives and voices. It’s more in the telling than the thinking. Don’t you think?

  41. Barry Lopez writes:
    “Weasel,” continued Crow, “do you remember what that man said before he began to tell us stories about Sedna and those other beings? He said, ‘I have put my poem in order on the threshold of my tongue.’ That’s what this person Badger, who has taken us into her lodge, is saying. Pretend Badger and I are the people waiting back in our village. Speak to us with that kind of care.”
    Good of Orion to take us into his lodge. Let’s strive to respectfully put our stories in order and learn from Badger. And, please more “merry yarns from a laughing fellow rover when the long trick is over” (John Masefield)

  42. After “caring for the planet” put the words ” and all that inhibit it.” only 5 words. It clarifies it all for all .

  43. I agree – it’s a beautiful mission statement and all the better with the addition of the three important words: “… and each other.”
    Also, thanks very much to Orion for opening the process to us readers. Very good to feel included.

  44. I would add; ‘caring for the planet, each other, and our fellow travellers’. It’s a great mission statement.

  45. Wonderful mission statement indeed! 2014 also will be the centenary of John Muir’s death. So let’s celebrate the gift of nature, seek inspiration in it and find joy in inspiring others to find happiness in these places as well… 🙂

  46. Hi Earl,

    thanks for your reply and the link enclosed! Now that’s pretty interesting indeed! And I just stumbled across the fact that the last wild specimen was shot already in 1900. Also, quite powerful statement on the site you sent me: “From Billions to None”…

    All the best,

  47. Thanks, Oliver. You might be interested in an upcoming project launch in March called The Life Cairn Project, to memorialize species gone extinct by human activities, and alert us to critically endangered species, island nations and cultures due to climate change.

    We will encourage the building of Life Cairns around the world in the run up to the 2014 and 2015 UN Climate Summits. A FB page is up already at


  48. Earl James gives us “Lessons from the Past for a Sustainable Future.” I’d like to think Orion does more than “inspire new thinking”

    Orion also shows respect for the past, recognizing we can learn from it.

    Remember those who went before. Some were heard and inform our present thinking; others no less right were not and should have been.

  49. Oliver raises excellent questions
    “let’s celebrate,” “the gift of nature,” “find joy in inspiring others” and “to find happiness in places” These worthy concepts are not explicit in the mission statement. The latter concept is not the same as “joyously living on Earth” in the mission statement because we are more place-based and celebrate places.

    I read the proposed mission statement as essentially two actions: Orion invites readers into a community, and Orion inspires new thinking. This seems quite individualistic. I like to think we are much more than readers who think.

    “To inspire new thinking through writing and art” is a most obvious means, as is exploring. The ends are not so obvious to understand, complex relationships between nature and culture broadly speaking, and individuals and their places more specifically speaking.

    Why does the mission statement say planet and earth, yet never mentions hearth and home? Are we exploring spacemen and inspired star gazers or are we stewards of places and communities?

    I believe only by observing, questioning, acting, and communicating locally can one become global and not the other way around. To know, one need ride the four painted ponies of observing, questioning, acting and communicating going up and down on an indigenous carousel set in a place.

  50. I agree with Karen’s “and each other.” What is interesting to me is that “caring for the planet” does not automatically imply caring for each other. I believe this to be THE challenge–how to erase the division we’ve created between “the planet” and “each other.” I was intensely struck by how the statement ends with “live on Earth justly, sustainably and joyously.” Yes! Joy! We must intentionally engage ourselves in the experience of joy–joy for justice and sustainability and joy for simply joy itself. This is why I cherish Orion. Just reading the new mission statement gave me a jolt of joy this morning.

  51. Hi Earl,

    thanks again for your additional input and the link to the Facebook page. I will certainly take a look and soak up some information from there as well. But it sounds like you are on a good way indeed, so keep going! 🙂

    > Hello Rob,

    thanks for your input as well! Glad to hear you can relate to this ideas and it’s amazing to see how the missions statement has potential to grow further and further if every member just adds some of his own “thought seeds” and watering some others as well! 🙂
    I really like your painted pony and indigenous carousel comparison! And the four “pillars” sounds interesting too. One probably leads to another and we can pass it on to even someone else. So “connection” again and that’s something we should preserve on so many levels. Starting with the basic ones, the one to nature, to our self and to others. Probably in this order – even though it might be sort of a circle too…

    Have a lovely day gentlemen and talk soon!


  52. I am speaking of ponies (processes) that we should ride, not pillars (principles) to stand by. Instead of fostering new thinking,I would hope Orion would have us express the good ideas in new ways. It is not a progression with from old principles to new shiny ones. The good thoughts long ago of John Muir, William Beebe, Rachel Carson, Barry Commoner continue to resonate today. The cores are constant. Even biblical references to stewardship have merits today. We don’t need polar fleece and cellphones to live in better harmony with nature. We count on Orion to keep us grounded in the wisdom of the ages. There lies the tools for meeting today’s environmental challenges.

  53. Hi Rob, maybe we can settle for “tree” as “the pillar that holds up our nature”!? 🙂

    [metaphor taken from a lovely screenprint from a Scottish artist]

    Instead of riding we could climb the tree, grow with it and broaden our mind by gaining new sight and insight…


  54. I cannot help but wonder what knowledgeable people are to do when a species like Homo sapiens is confronted with a colossal planetary emergency that it appears to have induced. Do human beings not have an original, overarching obligation or perhaps an absolute duty to warn of such a dire situation? What honor should be bestowed on first rank scientists and other esteemed professionals in possession of well-established science who pose as if they “see no truth, hear no truth and speak no truth” regarding known causes of the clear and present danger while mainstreamed, false (preternatural, pseudoscientific) knowledge is deliberately allowed to stand unchallenged as if it represented the best available science?

  55. REPORT SCIENCE, Orion!

    Is it not science, and science alone, that allows us to confirm our perceptions as objective correlates of reality and truth? Without science, thought leaders and power brokers in cultures are free to transmit memes at will, regardless of the extent to which the memes bear a meaningful relationship to what could be real and true. For example, a preternatural factoid or meme like “food must be produced in order to meet the needs of a growing population” is falsely given credence as a scientific idea although it reflects the opposite of the actual relationship between food supply and human numbers. Findings from science indicate population numbers are the dependent variable and food the independent variable, just like the population dynamics of other species. By increasing the food supply, we are in fact growing the human population, are we not? That human exceptionalism applies to its population dynamics and therefore is essentially different from (not similar to) the population dynamics of other species is a pseudoscientific factoid, bereft of an adequate foundation in science. Overwhelming science regarding the human population indicates that human population numbers appear as a function of food supply. For many this scientific idea is on the one hand irrefutable and on the other hand unbelievable. So completely are we enthralled by the notion of human exceptionalism. Exploding human numbers are the natural result of the Industrial and later Green Revolutions, are they not?

  56. Cool statement. My suggestions and substitutions are bracketed …..

    Orion magazine invites readers into a [partnership] of caring for the planet. Through writing and art that explore the connection between nature, culture [and the cosmos], Orion [explores] new thinking about how humanity might [inhabit Mother] Earth justly, sustainably, [peacefully] and joyously.

  57. Orion, refuse to be duped by clever vendors of words and highly educated sycophants of the rich and powerful who falsely claim they are scientists and then promulgate preternatural theories they pass off as proven results of scientific research. Demographers and economists are not scientists. Is there any question about that fact? These pseudoscientists are presenting false knowledge that is appealing because it presents us with what we wish to believe about the way the world we inhabit works as well as about the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things. Their false knowledge happens simultaneously to be politically convenient, economically expedient, socially desirable, religiously acceptable and culturally syntonic. This is ‘the standard’ for determining what is real among the economists and demographers.

    Many of you have evidently come across false knowledge from conventional, Neoclassical Cornucopian Economics and the Demographic Transition Theory. These theories are bereft of a foundation in science. Is there any question about the speciousness of what is presented ubiquitously by demographers and economists? Endless resources in a finite world? Indestructible ecology that is in fact frangible? Automatic population stabilization? A benign end to population growth soon? A glorious world by 2050 when the entire human community will reap the benefits you and I enjoy now because everyone will have entered Stage 4 of the demographic transition?

    Not economics and demography, but science must to be our guide because science stands alone as the best method by far for comprehending what could be real and true. Science needs to be categorically distinguished from all that is not science. Then, perhaps, we will be able to see more clearly how the world we inhabit works and more accurately our placement within the natural order of living things. The ‘imprimatur’ of science has been not so surreptitiously usurped by pseudoscientific disciplines in which professional research is primarily underwritten by wealthy power brokers. Economic and demographic research is designed and the findings presented so as to comport with the transparent self interests of the rich and powerful. Where in the research is intellectual honesty to be found? Where are the scientists who will speak out to correct this widespread wrongdoing? The conscious and deliberate silence of scientists that gives consent to such unethical professional behavior cannot be longer tolerated because of the confusion it willfully engenders among those who are seeking direction from the best available scientific research. Would anyone object to having the findings of demographic and economics research described as preternatural results? Demography and economics are prime examples of what science is not.

  58. I was happy to see the mission statement as it was – with the emphasis on the planet, full stop.

    We should be unequivocal about that focus; the self-obsessed human agenda through history is precisely how the earth was corralled into this mess in the first place. As we are all too slowly learning, the earth suffers human co-habitation only within limits.

  59. If we do nothing else than offer those who do survive some sort of unimaginable apocalypse what turns out to be a viable path to the future, a sustainable way to fare forward by doing things differently from the way we are doing them now, that would be a good thing. But we cannot achieve such a goal unless we can agree to rely on the best available science, not preternatural pseudoscience such as we see displayed ubiquitously in our time by economists and demographers. Science needs to be distinguished from what is not science. The fact that massive confusion is allowed to exist with regard to what is science and what is not science cannot be correct or allowed to stand unchallenged. Scientists could choose to stop colluding in silence and instead speak out loudly, clearly and often about distinctions between science and preternatural pseudoscience. The human community is presented with the global predicament that looms before us at least in part because scientists have remained silent.

  60. It does appear that “the powers that be” do share the view that some (few in numbers) human beings are actually ‘masters of the universe’ and the Earth is actually like a teat, an endless source of all supplies masters of the universe could possibly want for whatever purposes they intend. For this tiny, hyper-influential, global hegemony the watchwords are NO LIMITS. That is to say,

    no species limits

    and no physical limitations

  61. Notice the consciously ignored and deliberately unexamined ecological science of human population dynamics/overpopulation. In this instance science and humanity are failed by the very scientists who are thought to be faithfully dedicated to going wherever the evidence leads them, to discovering the way the world we inhabit actually works as well as the most accurate ‘placement’ of the human species within the natural order of living things, and to reporting objectively what is found to be results of inquiry. Recognize that virtually all scientific manuscripts are reviewed by two knowledgeable scientists with appropriate expertise who are expected to judge the validity of the research and report their findings. Not uncommon are the perfidious occasions when intellectual dishonesty and lack of moral courage lead referees and journal editors consciously to reject apparently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome research…evidence that is on the one hand irrefutable and on the other hand unbelievable. Understand the profound implications of this failure of scientists and other self-proclaimed experts to accept responsibilities to science and to perform duties in behalf of humankind and life as we know it. The body of scientific knowledge is not built up, scientists in other fields of inquiry are denied the breakthrough, and the human community is not allowed to see what could somehow be true and given the opportunity to act accordingly. New science is willfully denied. How can the human species be expected to adapt efficiently and effectively to the world in which we live when the reality of it is not seen?

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