Vermont Women: Donella Meadows
03/24/08 8:30AM By Betty Smith-Mastaler
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(HOST) All this week on Morning Edition, VPR salutes women who have contributed to the life and culture of Vermont. Today we hear from Diana Wright of Thetford. For 12 years, Wright was research assistant to Donella Meadows, a MacArthur Genius Award recipient and scientist - trained in chemistry and biophysics - who lived the last few years of her life in Hartland.
(WRIGHT) Donella Meadows, known to many as Dana, died 7 years ago last month.
In 1972, Dana was the lead author of "The Limits to Growth" - a book which described for the general public the interactions between human economic growth and the decline of natural resources. "Limits" was translated into 28 languages and sparked debate around the world about the Earth's carrying capacity and human choices.
Dana went on to author 9 more books on global modeling and sustainable development.
Neighbors knew Dana as a sheep farmer, an avid organic gardener, and a member of the town hand-bell choir.
To the conservation community, she was a co-founder and Board member of the Upper Valley Land Trust.
In the academic world she remains highly regarded as a systems analyst who combined scientific rigor with heart in the service of people and our planet.
She gave up the security of tenure at Dartmouth College to spend more time writing and working outside the academic setting.
Dana left her beloved farm in Plainfield NH and, moving across the river to Hartland VT, helped launch a co-housing community focused on good stewardship and sustainability. She gave up a measure of independence because she saw that a community could act in ways that were not possible for one person on an individual piece of land.
Dana invested her own savings in starting an independent non-profit organization, the Sustainability Institute, to tackle difficult problems of our time - like global poverty and resource depletion - and to help shift society into more sustainable paths.
And Dana gave freely of her talents. Above her computer at home and at work she posted a little hand-written note to herself. It was her credo, and it said:
My writing is a search for truth.
It comes out of love.
it does not judge
or rob anyone of dignity or respect.
It is clear and precise.
The passage of my words
through the minds of others
leaves them more open,
compassionate, committed to
Every one of my readers
is the Key to the Workability of the Planet.
I give in my writing of myself and my struggles
it is all I have to give;
the "I" of it is unimportant;
it is the universal humanness that
I write to ennoble others, not myself.
For 15 years, Dana wrote a column for newspapers around the US, called the Global Citizen, in which she spoke to readers about issues that were often complex and technical. Dana included the science - the numbers and trends - underpinning those subjects, but she also included the emotional heart-side - why we care.
As a scientist and systems analyst, Dana had the courage to say that love and vision are as important as technology and invention in creating the transition to a sustainable society.