EPIBuilding a Sustainable Future
Lester R. Brown

Chapter 8. The Worldwatch Institute: Present at the Creation

Late one summer afternoon in 1973 in Aspen, Colorado, after the day’s meetings were over and the sun was slanting behind the mountains, Bill Dietel of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and I were the only ones left in the swimming pool. As we chatted, we discovered that we both sensed the need for a research institute to work on global environmental issues.

Bill suggested that I write up a description of what such an organization would look like and send it to him to critique. It should be short—much like an informal grant proposal. Not long after, I sent him a six-page, double-spaced description of the proposed research institute and how it would function.

Bill responded with a few minor suggestions, and I then formally submitted a request for a $500,000 start-up grant. Some months went by without a decision, largely because the brothers who controlled the funding were somewhat divided. John D. Rockefeller III, whose big issue was population, was supportive. So apparently was Laurance, who was concerned with conservation issues. But David, the banker, and Nelson, the politician and the dominant member of the group, were not convinced. Then came what I would later see as a fortuitous break.

In December 1973, Nelson had resigned as governor of New York, presumably to prepare to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. To aid in this effort, he set up the Commission on Critical Choices for Americans—a vehicle that would enable him to analyze a broad set of policy issues ranging from education to foreign policy. Among the more than forty distinguished members of the panel were Edward Teller, Norman Borlaug, George Shultz, Bess Myerson, and Sol Linowitz.

As the months went by, however, his commission came under public criticism. Although it was indeed discussing critical choices for the country, the discussions were always in private—no public participation, no progress reports, no transparency. Nelson realized that he needed to have a meeting that would be open to at least a select public, including trusted members of the press. It was to be a two-day conference, held at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas, in April 1974. The meeting would be hosted by Lady Bird Johnson, who was indebted to Laurance Rockefeller for his active support of her national beautification project. Because high grain prices and overall instability in the world food economy were an issue at the time, they invited me to talk about the world agricultural prospect.

Lady Bird introduced Nelson, who welcomed the group and introduced me. Responding to both the historic nature and setting of this event, with Nelson Rockefeller in effect going public with what was widely seen as his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, and with LBJ looking down on us from the murals on the library’s twenty-foot walls, I was firing on all four cylinders. The talk, which explained the dramatic rise in world grain prices and discussed the measures needed to stabilize them, elicited a strong positive response from the group.

After I spoke, a number of other speakers, much more academic in style, failed to stir the audience. As a result, the press coverage focused on my talk, including an Associated Press story and a column by James Reston in The New York Times. Both were widely picked up across the country. Some months later, Reston’s column was expanded into an article in Reader’s Digest.

Nelson, who was thoroughly pleased with my address, now felt indebted to me. When the RBF board met in June 1974, they quickly approved the half-million-dollar start-up grant. I then moved ahead with my remaining obligations to the Overseas Development Council (ODC), which included talks at the World Population Conference in Bucharest in August and the World Food Conference in Rome in November. My goal was to wrap everything up by late November.

At the heart of the staff for this new organization, which we called the Worldwatch Institute, were Erik Eckholm, my ODC research assistant, and Blondeen Duhaney (later Gravely), my administrative assistant. Blondeen was a vital force. In 1965, shortly after graduating from high school in North Carolina as valedictorian, she moved to Washington, DC, and began working with me in the secretary’s office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We bonded immediately. Her vivacity and energetic work style endeared her to all who worked with her. Worldwatch took our working relationship to another level as she became the institute’s office manager—taking the lead in setting up the new organization—and later vice president for administration. We worked together in various capacities for twenty-nine years until she had to take medical retirement due to suffering with lupus, an autoimmune disease.

Newly recruited researchers included James Fallows, former editor of the Harvard Crimson; Kathleen Newland, a recent graduate of the Princeton master’s program in public affairs; and Denis Hayes, the coordinator of Earth Day in 1970. I convinced Bruce Stokes, whom I had met at the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome, to abandon his master’s program at the Columbia School of Journalism to head up our office of information.

Kathleen Courrier, a freelancer, was our part-time editor in the early years. When she took a full-time job, Linda Starke, who was on our outreach staff, became our editor. She went on to edit all our books and monographs. Shortly after she left in 1982 to begin her own freelance editing business, I enlisted her for the annual State of the World reports that we launched in 1984. (More on these later.) With those reports under her belt, she was very much in demand to edit various international commission reports, in effect becoming a jet-set editor.

Felix Gorrell, who was comptroller of the Brookings Institution, advised us during the early years and also served as our treasurer. His assistance with investing and accounting was invaluable. Orville Freeman agreed to serve as chairman of the board. In late November 1974 we moved into our new quarters on the seventh floor of 1776 Massachusetts Avenue NW, just across the street from Brookings and the ODC.

These early years were exciting. We were fashioning a new genre of research institute, one that did interdisciplinary research. This would not be a traditional economic or international affairs research institution, but rather one whose research centered on the environment broadly defined but that also included food, energy, population, water, and particularly the relationship between the environment and the economy. Our goal was to make our published material accessible to lay readers, publishable in scientific magazines, useful to the media, and indispensable to policymakers. We were caught up in the excitement of this challenge.

We also envisioned Worldwatch serving a worldwide constituency, a goal that only added to the complexity of the challenge. It is one thing to study global issues; it is another to reach a global population with the research results.

We decided early on that we would have two research products: a monograph series, which we called the Worldwatch Papers, typically thirty to seventy pages, and books. The Worldwatch Paper series enabled us to produce studies on key issues in a relatively short period of time. Remembering what I had learned from Scientific American about making multiple use of research products, much of what was in the papers eventually would be incorporated into books, which could be translated and published in other languages.

Not only do book publishers provide a means of reaching people in other languages, but they pay for the rights to do so. The other side of this coin, of course, is that you have to produce books that are of sufficient relevance to justify their publication in other languages.

I decided that our first publication should be written by someone other than me largely because I did not want Worldwatch to be seen as the Lester Brown Institute. Erik, who had assisted me with In the Human Interest and coauthored By Bread Alone at the ODC, was ready to roll. He moved fast and finished Losing Ground: Environmental Stress and World Food Prospects in the fall of 1975, in time for publication in early 1976. Losing Ground broadened the near-exclusive focus in the environmental community on industrial pollution in the developed world to include deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, and other environmental threats in the developing world.

While the book was at our publisher, Erik pulled material from it on the fast-growing demand for firewood, expanding it into the first in the monograph series. Entitled The Other Energy Crisis: Firewood, Worldwatch Paper 1 was published in September 1975. It was a huge media hit, generating a ton of stories, including a front-page story in The New York Times. The key to its success was the juxtaposition of the firewood crisis—affecting a third of humanity, but largely below the radar—with the oil crisis—of which the industrial countries were, at a time of quadrupling oil prices, keenly aware.

The analysis in this first paper sent ripples through the world forestry community. It resulted in a restructuring of the World Bank’s forestry lending. It also led the government of Indonesia to add a firewood component to its national forestry program. The institute was off and running.

When Losing Ground was released in early 1976, George Brockway, the head of W. W. Norton & Company, called it an instant classic. In addition to extensive media coverage from the press launch and translation into the world’s leading languages, almost every chapter in Losing Ground was reprinted in one or another widely read periodical—everything from Science magazine to the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post. We had quickly reached one of our goals: a depth of analysis and style of writing that was publishable in both scientific journals and the popular press.

Not long after publication of Losing Ground, when Erik was on a field trip in Nepal gathering information on the deterioration of mountain environments, he spent a couple of days in a rural district outside Kathmandu. The district leader was so impressed with Losing Ground that he decided to make a copy, but not with a copying machine, because they did not exist—at least not in the villages of Nepal. He used a typewriter with a team of typists typing around the clock for the entire two days and two nights that Erik was in the village.

Erik had set the bar high for the institute. All of our papers did well, but our next megahit was Worldwatch Paper 5, Twenty-Two Dimensions of the Population Problem, by Bruce Stokes, Patricia McGrath, and me. We went beyond the exclusive focus on population and food bequeathed to us by Thomas Malthus to focus on the many effects of population growth including housing, water, health services, forests, and access to national recreation areas. Mathus believed that population would increase geometrically while the food supply would increase arithmetically.

The monograph devoted three pages or so to each dimension of the population problem, and, where data were available, a graph showing the appropriate trend and how it was being altered by population growth. Many international development organizations distributed the paper by the thousands to their employees. And, unheard of for a monograph, it was translated into several leading languages, including Arabic, French, Spanish, Japanese, Indonesian, Portuguese, and Italian. It also appeared in less widely spoken languages, such as Burmese and Nepalese. The Nepalis printed 10,000 copies of their edition.

The extraordinary success of this monograph, which eventually hit 186,000 copies in print in all languages, was the result of looking at the population issue through a fresh lens, an interdisciplinary lens. This was also a time when the world was beginning to focus on the relationship between population growth and environmental issues, particularly the loss of biological diversity.

Meanwhile, Denis Hayes produced several Worldwatch Papers in rapid succession, including Energy: The Case for Conservation and Nuclear Power: The Fifth Horseman. In the latter he made a convincing argument based on economics alone that nuclear power was not a viable option. These and some Worldwatch Papers on solar energy were incorporated into the book Rays of Hope, another pioneering work.

Kathleen Newland produced two Worldwatch Papers: Women in Politics: A Global Review and Women and Population Growth: Choice Beyond Childbearing. These provided the foundation for her book, The Sisterhood of Man, which emphasized the importance of providing girls and women with equal opportunities and linked these opportunities and rising female education with falling fertility.

During these early years I produced several Worldwatch Papers. One of them, which I was particularly pleased with, Redefining National Security, was published in October 1977. Robert Redford, an environmentalist from early on, who dropped by our office from time to time, called me from Dulles Airport one day to say that he had just finished reading it and thought it was a landmark work. More than a decade was to pass before Foreign Affairs published its first article on redefining security.

So many of the papers were wildly successful that I can mention only a few. An analysis coauthored by Ted Wolf and me on the need to reverse the environmental deterioration that was increasing hunger and malnutrition in Africa (Reversing Africa’s Decline) was widely used by the World Bank, which distributed 900 copies to its senior management staff in Washington and all its professionals working on Africa. The bank also organized seminars on the paper for its staff and translated it into French for mass distribution in Africa’s Francophone countries. The African Development Bank invited Ted and me to conduct a two-day seminar for its senior staff and executive directors at its headquarters in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.

In January 1989, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher decided to host an international conference of political leaders on the future of the ozone layer, her staff discovered that they did not have a document outlining the origins of the problem, the trends, the responses called for, or the economic effects of various responses. So they ordered 200 copies of Worldwatch Paper 87, Protecting Life on Earth: Steps to Save the Ozone Layer by Cynthia Pollock Shea. If a government of an advanced industrial society, such as the United Kingdom, lacked the research organization to deal with such basic issues, we could only wonder about governments elsewhere.

Early on we developed an extensive mailing list of opinion leaders to get complimentary copies of the Worldwatch Papers. We had what we called paper stuffings, where everyone on the staff sat on the floor and stuffed the addressed envelopes. We turned the task into a social occasion, often heckling the author. We also opened the bar every Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. for an institute happy hour.

In these early Worldwatch years I also wrote The Twenty-Ninth Day. Published in early 1978, it is for me one of the favorites among my books. The book’s title comes from a riddle that the French use to teach schoolchildren exponential growth. If a lily pond has one lily leaf in it the first day, two the second, and four the third, and if the number of leaves continues to double each day and the pond fills on the thirtieth day, when is it half full? Answer: the twenty-ninth day. The book title was intended to convey the urgency with which we need to deal with our growing claims on this finite planet. It was one of the first books to discuss in detail our dependence on the earth’s natural systems and carrying capacity.

In the spring following the book’s release, I was scheduled to do an interview on NBC’s Today show with Jane Pauley. The interview, which ran between 7:45 and 8:00 a.m., was referred to several times with a teaser during the preceding hour. It said, “Today we have an author who has written a book on soil erosion. That’s right! Soil erosion.” For days afterwards Brian and Brenda went around the house saying, “And our dad has written a book on soil erosion. That’s right! Soil erosion.”

In sales, translations, and media citations—by every criterion we used—The Twenty-Ninth Day was a smashing success. A glowing review by David Burns on the front page of the Washington Post book review assured that it got off to a fast start. Appearing in some twenty languages, it focused global attention on our dependence on four natural systems—forests, grasslands, fisheries, and croplands—and their carrying capacity. It was a pioneering work on the concept of sustainable development.

In 1981, I expanded my ideas in Building a Sustainable Society. It, too, was widely translated and used in the environmental and development fields. Even the Soviets were paying dollars for language rights to our books.

One of the criteria by which we evaluated our performance was whether we were producing research products of interest to the media. We knew we were getting extraordinary media coverage, but I wanted to get a more precise sense of our effectiveness. To do this, I checked how often we had been cited in The New York Times each year, compared with other prominent research organizations. These included Resources for the Future, the Brookings Institution, and two leading conservative think tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Hudson Institute. In 1976, our first full year of publishing, we quickly jumped ahead of all the research institutes except the venerated grandfather of public policy research institutes, Brookings. It took us four more years to overtake Brookings in New York Times citations. Since the Brookings’ staff was at least ten times the size of Worldwatch’s, surpassing them was not a trivial matter.

This, of course, was only The New York Times and the United States. We were also interested in how much our research was covered by major news organizations in other countries and in the global outlets, such as the BBC, Voice of America, and later CNN, along with the principal newswires, especially the Associated Press and Reuters. Our clipping service indicated we were either publishing or being cited in several stories a day worldwide. We were being taken seriously.

Another test was whether we were reaching a global constituency. The answer to this question was evident in the many translations of our books. What we did not anticipate was that so many Worldwatch Papers would be translated into other languages and that some of them would have print runs in excess of 100,000 copies. Our interdisciplinary or systemic approach to analyzing global environmental issues, broadly defined, was enthusiastically received. We were actually doing what we had set out to do.

As Worldwatch neared the end of its sixth year, RBF did a review of how effectively their investment had been used. Their conclusion: “In sum, Worldwatch is making a significant contribution to the way policymakers in this and other countries look at their resources and make decisions that affect their use. … Few other models—Rand, Brookings, … or the American Enterprise Institute—have matched the force of the ideas and research Worldwatch is now communicating to those responsible for our fate.”

Reaching a global constituency is, the report noted, “an infinitely more complex undertaking than merely reaching a national constituency.” The author of the RBF report talked to many journalists. The report said, “Among news reporters, it is hard to find anyone who is anything but enthusiastic about Worldwatch and its services.” Among the many it cited were Walter Sullivan and Bayard Webster, science writers at The New York Times, and Stan Benjamin, a Washington-based science reporter for the Associated Press.

There was the occasional critic. Dennis Flanagan, managing editor at Scientific American, said Worldwatch material “is welcome here; it is well researched, and the reports are worthwhile. … [But] Les Brown takes a doomsday approach to the environment that we don’t buy.”

The RBF report also reviewed the management practices that I used at Worldwatch, which were unconventional. For example, we had few staff meetings and we did not have an operating budget. I merely estimated expenditures for the year ahead. Our fiscal policy was a simple one: we would not write any checks that could not be covered. In bypassing the detailed budgeting process, we did not need a budget officer. Perhaps more important, when we decided to do a book or a Worldwatch Paper, I didn’t have to ask the individual staff researchers to spend time doing a detailed project budget and finding sources of funding.

Writing about Worldwatch in 1977, the science adviser to the Science Council of Canada said, “There isn’t one ounce of fat in that organization. … I’m a bit jealous when I see how much [Brown] has produced in such a short time with such a small infrastructure.”

The bottom line of this approach is that during the twenty-six years I headed Worldwatch, we never had any staff cutbacks as a result of fiscal stresses or for any other reasons. It may have been unorthodox, but it created an extraordinarily lean, efficient organization. Another unconventional policy for a research institute was my goal of covering part of our budget from income earned from publication sales, book royalties, and speaking fees. We applied the market test to our research products. RBF watched these trends with a certain fascination.

In 1982 RBF set up a committee to oversee and formalize the shift of the fund’s management from the brothers’ to the cousins’ generation. The brothers were getting older, and the Rockefellers in the cousins’ generation, including Larry, David Jr., and Neva R. Goodwin, were experienced enough in the family’s philanthropy to take charge. I was invited to one of the meetings to talk about issues. They asked the usual questions: How do we get the biggest bang for the buck? How can we make a difference with the limited resources that we have?

At the end of this meeting, Larry Rockefeller, son of Laurance, indicated that the next time I came to New York he would like to get together for a drink and to brainstorm. In the discussion we had some weeks later, I suggested, among other things, that they commission someone to do a report card, sort of an annual physical of the earth, checking its vital signs. I promptly forgot about this. But some months later, Bill Dietel, by then the president of RBF, came to see me. He said they liked the idea of doing an annual report card for the planet, and he wondered if we would be interested in doing it. I demurred. Although the idea had originated with me, I did not particularly want to do it. While at the ODC, I saw how the annual Agenda for Development absorbed staff time, often allowing individuals to avoid other potentially more demanding and productive undertakings.

Before long Bill came back and asked if I would reconsider. Bill’s persistence paid off. This time I agreed, but with the understanding that he would help us find some additional financial resources. A new era was about to begin.

We had at that time a team of only five researchers, including me, and a total staff of eleven. Adding this annual volume to our existing workload would require more staff and more money. Bill agreed to help with the fundraising. For the initial report, I wrote seven chapters and the other researchers did the remaining four.

In April 1984, we released the first State of the World report. It was a stunning success. Our sole reference point in judging its performance was the World Bank’s annual World Development Report (WDR). Thus, our goal was to one day publish State of the World in as many languages and sell as many copies as the WDR. Much to our surprise, the very first edition of State of the World surpassed it coming out of the blocks in both translations and sales, and by a wide margin.

State of the World 1984 got off to a quick start, appearing in Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish, among the major languages, and Malaysian, Polish, and Thai among the less widely spoken languages. The U.S. Information Agency, an organization that promoted relevant U.S. publications abroad, sponsored an English edition in India. For the 1985 edition, we added Indonesian. Within four years, State of the World was appearing in virtually every major language.

Many magazines and newspapers published excerpts from these reports because they contained so much fresh information and established the links between global environmental, economic, and social trends. Some fifty excerpts were published from the English edition alone of the first State of the World. This, combined with reviews and news coverage of the other language editions, added up to a massive release of environmental information worldwide.

Although not designed for classroom use, State of the World was unbelievably popular on college campuses. Course adoptions climbed higher each year. By 1991, a total of 1,379 professors were using State of the World in their courses at 633 U.S. colleges and universities. In Canada, some fifty universities were using it. So were universities in several other countries. In Finland, State of the World was required reading in each of its eleven universities.

Within the United States, the University of Michigan emerged as our leading adopter when professors used State of the World 1991 in seventeen courses. Close behind in usage were Michigan State University, the University of Colorado, Cornell University, and the University of California.

State of the World was also used as a “book in common” for incoming college freshmen. Slippery Rock State University in Pennsylvania used the book during its orientation for its 2,300 incoming students in the fall of 1991. Broome Community College in New York State used it in an introductory program for all 2,000 freshmen. Clearly State of the World had found a home in the world of higher education.

What was astounding was the variety of courses adopting State of the World either as a primary or supplemental text. We compiled a list of forty-five colleges where it had been adopted, but each for a course in a different field of study. Just to cite a few, at Montana State University, the course was Technology and Society. At the University of Tennessee, it was Natural Resource Management. At the University of Maine, it was Contemporary World Issues. At the University of North Carolina, World Population Problems. And at the University of Arizona, Environmental Biology.

We could never get data on course adoptions in China, though from State of the World 1984 onward nearly all of our books were published there. However, several years ago when I was preparing to give an evening lecture at the China Agricultural University in Beijing, a school with 17,000 students, the president of the university and I had a leisurely prelecture dinner. As we walked from his office to the lecture hall, he told me that every student on campus knew my name because they had read my book Who Will Feed China? (See Chapter 10.) I was a bit skeptical. He proceeded to validate his point. To our right as we walked to the lecture hall were a couple of card tables where the student drama group was selling tickets for an upcoming event. He went up to them and introduced me, and each of the students immediately recognized my name.

State of the World 1984 caught the attention of Ted Turner. In the spring of 1984, four years after he launched CNN, the first cable news network, I got a phone call from Ted. He was coming to Washington the following week and wondered if we could meet. He said State of the World was the most important book he’d read in years. During our meeting, it quickly became clear that Ted was as concerned about global environmental issues and their long-term consequences as I was. We were instant soul mates.

From Washington, Ted was flying to New York to address a meeting of foreign correspondents. He left carrying two cartons of State of the World—one under each arm—that he planned to distribute to the correspondents. This was my first contact with Ted, but it would not be the last. He has promoted and distributed my books ever since. In fact, after this meeting, he began an annual distribution of State of the World to CNN’s worldwide network of reporters. More important, this meeting was the beginning of a lasting friendship.

The State of the World report was the right publication at the right time. It was launched when there was a worldwide hunger not only for environmental information but for integrated research that linked environmental trends to other issues like population, natural resources, technology, and international relations. Furthermore, in the absence of an annual U.N. world environmental report, State of the World achieved semiofficial status. It was used by governments throughout the world as a basic reference. Thank you, Bill Dietel, for your persistence. Thank you for valuing my idea more than I did.

In 1985, shortly after the second State of the World came out, we were contacted by Linda Harrar of the PBS NOVA series, based at WGBH in Boston. She wanted to produce a ten-hour television series based on State of the World. This represented a unique marriage between a research institute and a public television group. The fundraising, production, and editing of the series and its scheduling for public television took several years. The resulting Race to Save the Planet first aired in the fall of 1990, narrated by Meryl Streep.

On a personal note, during this time my son Brian came to work with us. He had become a member of the U.S. Slalom Kayak Team. Since the team training site was on the Potomac River near Washington, he moved to the area and I hired him part-time at the institute to do administrative chores.

During this period we regularly shared lunches, discussing paddling technique, training regimes, the psychology of competition, and other things of mutual interest. Like so many men who as boys aspired to athletic greatness, I was vicariously sharing the experience with him.

Although nearly all my energy was devoted to Worldwatch, I did become involved, in off-hours, in the most intense political campaign of my life: gaining admission for women to the Cosmos Club as full members. When I was admitted in 1969, I was the youngest member of the club, part of a generation that had a strong commitment to gender equity.

The Cosmos Club in Washington, DC, was incorporated in 1878 and patterned after the English men’s social clubs, but membership was based not on social standing but on merit, on “scholarship, creative genius or intellectual distinction.” The club has counted among its members fifty-six Pulitzer Prize winners and thirty-two Nobel Prize winners. If it were strictly a social club, then restricting membership to men, women, or any other defined group would be fine, but if merit was the basis for membership, then it seemed to me that we could not exclude women.

The club management, which was self-perpetuating, was overwhelmingly opposed to admitting women. But some members thought this position was no longer appropriate. In 1980, I helped organize the “Committee of Concerned Members.” I coordinated a survey of individual members, asking their position on this issue. The responses, which were sent to my office at Worldwatch, gave us valuable information for use in the campaign. It was a tough fight. Even getting the club mailing list was difficult. Some members supporting the admission of women broke the rules and took the issue to the press, which intensified pressure on the management. 

As stresses intensified between the pro- and anti-women factions, some members resigned. One member was threatened with expulsion. I received a warning letter from the club leadership. Finally in June 1988, as pressure continued to mount, the dam broke and the club voted almost unanimously to admit women. To me it felt like Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind.

As the State of the World reports began taking off, in 1986 I hired Reah Janise Battenfield (now Kauffman) as my administrative assistant. She came from Michigan State University, where she had been an editor and technical writer—skills that would serve me well. I had no idea at the time just how invaluable she would become as an associate and friend. Among Reah Janise’s other talents, she is an excellent seamstress. She makes the warm corduroy jackets that I wear in winter. She also delights in converting colorful fabrics into clip-on bow ties, the only ties that I wear.

In the wake of the extraordinary success of State of the World, I began to see a need for another publication, a magazine, preferably one published every two months. This would provide an outlet for short pieces on topical issues. From time to time, we would come up with an idea we wanted to get out more quickly than researching and writing a Worldwatch Paper would permit. A magazine would also enable us to cover in more detail specific facets of larger issues we were working on in a way that could be of interest.

In discussing the bimonthly, which we ended up calling simply World Watch, I talked with Susie Buffett, wife of Warren Buffett, about providing support for the magazine. Susie was definitely interested and excited about the prospect, particularly as it came on the heels of our highly successful launch of State of the World. Warren, however, was not nearly as enthusiastic. He was at that time serving on the board of the Washington Post Company, which also published Newsweek magazine. He had seen too many problems in the magazine field to share our excitement about launching a new one.

Despite the lack of support from Warren, we moved ahead. The initial issue was slated for January/February 1988. Jim Gorman, the first editor of the magazine, served for four years. He was followed by Ed Ayres, the founding editor of Running Times. Despite the challenge for all of us, our expectations were exceeded. Within a few years, World Watch was appearing in Japanese, Chinese, and Italian. German, French, and Spanish were in the works. We had not anticipated the extent of the international interest and had not even contemplated the prospect of the magazine appearing in other languages. Once again we were breaking new ground.

An important benefit of doing the magazine was that it enabled us to hold press events on the lead story each time a new issue was released. These, too, proved to be remarkably successful. Some of the individual magazine articles had a global impact. One of the most attention-getting was “Who Will Feed China?” which was published in the September/October 1994 issue. (See Chapter 10.)

Another article that attracted wide attention was “Death in the Family Tree,” by John Tuxill, which was featured in the September/October 1997 issue. His thesis was that humanity’s continued population growth and expanding activities were threatening the survival of many of our closest evolutionary relatives. The 420 nonhuman species of primates, including chimpanzees and other apes as well as monkeys, are collectively among the most imperiled groups of mammals on the planet. The press conference, held in late August, drew a strong turnout, including seven television camera crews.

By 1990, when we had fifteen years behind us, we could say, as The Wall Street Journal, that we were “wildly successful.” We had fashioned a new model for public policy research institutes, one that relied on bright young generalists rather than those with specialized advanced academic credentials. And we were totally independent, accepting no government or corporate funding. And there was more to come.