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Whole Earth Closes Its Doors
Alex Steffen, 23 Jan 04

Whole Earth magazine - spawn of the amazing Whole Earth Catalogs, source of the WELL, first to mention in print the Gaia Hypothesis, the Internet, Virtual Reality, the Singularity and Burning Man (or at least so the legend goes), the place where folks like Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and Howard Rheingold found their voices, and where a whole generation of young commune-kid geeks like myself learned to dream weird - is no more.

Again. Maybe. It has died and risen from the ashes at least once before. But in any case, it's going into the deep freeze, with (as far as I can tell) no solid plans for how to awaken, and it looks pretty unlikely that the famous "lost Singularity issue," #111(PDF) will ever see print.

The signs are bad: creditors (including writers, including me) have long gone unpaid, the last of the staff has gone, and I got an email today quoting this message from board president Danica Remy:

...Ah, Dear WER friends and fans. Yes, it's true WE is giving notice to place of business for the last eight years. We are looking at a storage scenario but several of us on the board have NOT GIVEN UP!

Thank you all for your warm wishes, perspectives and most of all your continued support. It is true the WELL and WER should have been more tightly tied together but a decision long before I joined the was made that sealed the fate of a disconnected future.

We have many more conversation to have before we can really say Whole Earth is dead....

Danica

Hopefully this isn't just wishful thinking, and, to paraphrase E.J. Dionne, it only looks dead. If not, though, a once great (and worldchanging) magazine has passed from the scene, and we're all poorer for it.

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Comments

Damnit.

Damnit.

In 1990, I was on a business trip; a sales training call for a long-gone third-rank home computer company. I was staying in a motel in a bleak commercial strip somewhere in Pennsylvania.

I had no car, and was feeling lonely and depressed about my lousy job. I had this feeling that stuff was going on in the industry I was supposed to be part of that I barely comprehended, much less had a chance of participating in.

During some post-dinner wandering I found a bookstore.

In which I found Whole Earth Review #68.

HOLY FLIPPING CRAP!

It was . . . revelatory. 142 pages of eclectic wonders.

The account by John Perry Barlow on dealing with the Legion of Doom was worth the price of admission alone. (I didn't know it at the time, but it was membership in the LOD by an employee which had brought the Secret Service down on my sometimes-publisher, Steve Jackson Games.)

Ironically, one of the articles was about Angels . . . the financial kind.

Maybe WER will find another.


Posted by: Stefan Jones on 23 Jan 04

Don't Dare Die!

Go digital. Collect content by blog; edit by layered wiki process; publish online in batches for tinypays.

You have been THE opening into the better world since WEC #1. Who will replace that?


Posted by: David Zuckerman on 24 Jan 04

Alex,

Why don't you offer to post the entire issue as a PDF here? Many folks would read it.


Posted by: Kevin Kelly on 24 Jan 04

It looks like a great issue, I hope the rest gets online.

I used to read the whole earth catalogs as a kid, and then started reading the mags when I discovered them at Portland State while getting my M.A.

If there was ever a magazine that I should have subscribed to, that was it. I'd love to see an online blog/wiki version, instead of aggregrating Kevin Kelly, Stewart Brand and others on my own.


Posted by: Mark Crane on 24 Jan 04

That's a great suggestion, Kevin. I'll see if I can get ahold of someone there and get the PDF files. It seems a shame to let a finished issue slide into the abyss.


Posted by: Alex Steffen on 24 Jan 04

We're finally closing the Whole Earth conference on the WELL, too. That's significant because the WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link) was once part of Point Foundation and related to the magazine. Used to be the staff would hang out on the WELL and talk about each issue as it hit the stands.

I think WorldChanging is in a similar vein, so perhaps we can carry forward if Danica can't find finances. However it's hard to imagine a world without Whole Earth.


Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 24 Jan 04

Would someone be willing to post contact info or something for whomever is trying to keep the Whole Earth alive?


Posted by: John Abbe on 24 Jan 04

http://www.wholeearth.com/contact.html i guess.


Posted by: John Abbe on 24 Jan 04

Damn, this is bad news -- the times really are a-changing, and in the wrong direction. :(

Here's hoping it does that phoenix trick once again...


Posted by: Justin Mason on 24 Jan 04

Each issue of the CoEvolution Quarterly (later, the Whole Earth Review, later the Whole Earth Magazine), was a treasure. Every few pages I was introduced to a new concept, every issue contained at least one stop-me-in-my-mental-tracks kernel of truth. I haven't subscribed since the middle 90's, but at one time I could rattle off a long list of things that I first heard about in the magazine (besides those already mentioned). Those that I still remember include: Mountain Bikes, AIDS (when it was still called GRID), Bruce Sterling, Digital photography & editing, Paul Hawken, Japanese Love Motels, Coppicing, FactSheet Five and 'Silence Is a Commons'.


Posted by: Bill Lapworth on 24 Jan 04

Those of us who re-upped our subscriptions in January and who are therefore unlikely to see them honored (although no regrets for having donated money to a fabulous cause!!) would also like to see as much of the issue as possible in PDF form.


Posted by: Stefan Keydel on 24 Jan 04

Ah, me. I've been avoiding my growing apprehension of this event for months now. The longer I waited for the coming issue, the harder it became to not think about it.

The Last Whole Earth Catalog did really change my life. I read it on the El/Subway in Chicago, commuting to my job as a page at a major law firm. Fascinated by "Divine Right's Trip" a novel parcelled out in tiny chunks printed at the lower right hand corner of each pair of pages, I was sucked into reading most every page of the massive thing. The ideas I found there inspired me to leave the city, a decision that branched out into a future I never could have imagined.

Among concrete artifacts of my relationship to WE are a beloved pair of down sleeping bags ordered from contact info in the Last Catalog, that were literally "shipped" to me in Chicago, in 1972, for just a bit more than $100 for the pair, via surface transport, from an expedition outfitter in New Zealand! Think global!

I saw the first issue of Coevolution Quarterly, later Whole Earth Review, on a news stand in Gainesville, Florida. It was the beginning of an ongoing relationship that has continued from then to now. I have every issue except the one edited by the Black Panthers, including most of the specials, and the WE Software Review.

I will always honor the contribution that the WE community made to my life.


Posted by: Chris Noto on 25 Jan 04

Damn.
I remember reading the "Fringes of Reason" issue (1986?) issue cover to cover.

WER was the internet before there was an internet.

I showed the Biosphere II issue to a co-worker who subscribed on the basis of that one issue.

The corps win, we lose. I guess I'm not really surprised.


Posted by: Damn. on 25 Jan 04

Wow, thanks Stewart and all of you folks! Was it 1969? I was a young hippy in Manhattan, and someone came over to our communal loft with a copy of the first WEC...
It was a revelation. On our own, living on West 26th Street, we knew what we were against, and we knew a few things we were for, but we had no place to work out what--collectively and comprehensively--was the whole basketfull of the new culture...
And of course that is what the WEC provided, and provided a vision for..
Lots of love, lots of wisdom, lots of community, lots of humor and joy and fun!
A godsend!
Stuff we do now in terms of "second superpower" and even the Dean campaign hark back to the culture that was spread, spearheaded, and given a creative agenda through WEC and its various spinoffs over the years. Thanks thanks thanks!!!


Posted by: Jim Moore on 25 Jan 04

If anybody knows where there's actual MONEY for the revival of Whole Earth, let me know and I'll forward the info to Danica.

Whole Earth is never dead as long as those of us who read CQ, WER and WEM are around. Worldchanging.com proves that point.


Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 26 Jan 04

well, coevolution may have stalled, but conscious evolution abides :D

http://www.evolve.org/

cheers!


Posted by: reflexorset on 29 Jan 04

Wow! I had no idea WE was still around this long. I thought it had disapeared a long time ago. Go online, please!

I have some semi-related news.
I have an idea that will end the DW, if your'e curious email me. I'm looking for help from someone who knows about book publishing. Producing, distributing, advertizing, ect.

I'm only a spiritual leader/housewife/girl scout leader and not overly skilled in business aspects, I'm looking for a team who wants to help me. I do get lots and lots of ideas though, so I bet we can figure out some way to make a little money. Or as I'd rather, just do it for the fun of it.


Posted by: Lauren Unruh on 4 Feb 04

It seems to me that what Whole Earth is at this moment is an idea, some people committed to keeping it going, and a finished unpublished magazine. So why not release the magazine to the public via the Internet. Do it in a manner that would make it easaliy printable on most computers. People could then pick their favorite couple of articles (or the entire piece if they were really adventurous) and sell them to friends much like a zine. Prices could be cheap like 50 cents, that way people would be much more willing to check it out. This would also expose new people to this magazine and all the ideas held within. Then the money, minus expenses, could be donated back to WE to start up the magazine again. I figure if national distribution is not working, go grass roots. I, for one would be more than willing to printout a couple of my favorite articles and sell them to friends.


Posted by: Eli Steffen on 5 Feb 04

This is terrible news! I really hope WER continues in some form. Where can I send $$ to support this effort?

I remember as a teen getting the WEC and reading it over and over. Each page would reveal new information - new worlds to imagine and consider and think about. I loved the hand-drawn renderings of the wood furniture and cabins. In short, it opened my eyes and mind to the larger world beyond and the many things and places therein.


Posted by: Brian Caldwell on 10 Feb 04

Hi All,

Thanks for the good wishes and hopes.

We should have a more formal statement in the next day or so, but the highlights are that we are moving to the Presidio, will be making part of the "unreviewed" books and the magazine subscriptions available for public use at the Thoreau Center. We are looking for long-term plan for the "whole earth" collection and several interested parties whom we have started early discussions with during the last few weeks.

For those who want to make donations we have a donation page here

https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=85

And when we straighten things out with our webmaster we should have alink on our website.

As some of you may know biscuit@well.com offered to pdf issue 111 and we are committed to getting it published on our website which will stay up and intact.

sunita dutt and i are personally packing the offices for the move. what a treasure trove of whole earth! What an honor, legacy and…. well organizational baggage all lumped into one ;-)

Again thanks for the support and stay tuned for more of an update!

All the best,

Danica


Posted by: Danica Remy on 17 Feb 04

Oh,

and we have a couple of magazines that have offered to cover our subscription liablity so people will be getting issues of a "like minded" publication.

Danica


Posted by: danica remy on 17 Feb 04

Sorry to hear that such an important voice for innovation and change is now silent. I remember reading an article about Usenet in 1989 and thinking what a totally amazing discovery I had come upon. Over the years, people like Stewart Brand, Paul Hawken, Kevin Kelly, J. Baldwin, and so many others have prompted me to look at the world from a different perspective. I have a couple of boxes of back issues, going back to #2, taking up needed space in a closet, and would be happy to donate them to anyone who wants them.
radioray@snowcrest.net


Posted by: Ray Schroff on 26 Feb 04

Ahhh nooo..not extinct...maybe endangered...well because of the right wing tactics of the Bush admininstration, fallout from 9/11 and other political insecurities of the times we live in...hopefully this magaizine can ressurect itself from the piles of knowledge and tools that beenfits everyone individually and collectively...where is Steward Brand when we needed him...wondering when my next issue was to be in the mailbox...somethings are important to me and Whole earth Review has been apart of my life since the early seventies...Please make a comeback...I dont care if it's 10 pages!!!!


Posted by: Curt Nighswander on 2 Mar 04

when oil disappears or diminishes so we notice, whole earth will revive.

penelope reedy


Posted by: Penelope Reedy on 5 Mar 04

If the Whole Earth entreprise (catalog, magazine) were based in France it would have long since been elevated to National Treasure status, complete with subsidies.
A shame to see that something so unique and groundbreaking is not valued by the society that produced it. `
Jean O'S


Posted by: Jean O'Sullivan on 6 Mar 04

I can't believe it! I still have masses of old editions which I've carted from Ireland to England, to Mexico, to the USA and then back home to Dublin, Ireland. For some reason I stopped receiving the WER a couple of years and today I finally decided to get it together and send off my payment. Too late! A real tragedy. Come back soon.
ANTHONY CARRICK


Posted by: ANTHONY CARRICK on 9 Mar 04

Hmm... I liked the magazine too but why are most of the comments so kind to its recent management who are in fact deadbeats who have defrauded their subscribers and creditors through their inexplicable neglect of a successful 35 year + brand? How about a little accountability for the manifestly incompetent board that would appoint someone as clearly unqualified as the clueless Danica Remy to rescue this valuable resource?


Posted by: "Stewart Brand" on 4 Apr 04

Ah, public life…

Ok all I know I owe you an update and this post above that someone forwarded to me was just the nudge I needed ;-) Wonder when Stewart gave up his professional email address for sb@yahoonot.com? Geez, I love the innovative use of technology.

Anyway by why of a public update:

Whole Earth is currently working with Unte magazine to take over the Whole Earth subscription liability. This coming months issue has a tribute to Whole Earth. Check it out when it hits the newsstands. Although I am not sure the obit is really final chapter.

As soon as the details are worked out with Magazine Audit Bureau and Unte we will begin fulfilling our subscriber obligation. If the subscribers don’t want the publication they will have recourse for a refund. Utne and Whole Earth will send a joint letter to our current and past subscribers with an update as soon as all the auditing work is completed. Currently Point Foundation does not have enough money in the bank to mail our subscribers directly. Printing, postage and mailing is not cheap these days.

Whole Earth has moved out of the San Rafael location as well as the famous “cargo locker”. Whole Earth is now officially in San Francisco. Our new mailing address is

Mailing (best place to send mail!)
Whole Earth / Point Foundation
Post Office Box 29168
San Francisco, CA 94126

Physical
Whole Earth / Point Foundation
Presidio Building 1014
Lincoln Blvd @ Torney Ave
San Francisco, CA 94129

We are in process with developing a public access area within the Thoreau Center to make available some of the Whole Earth Library for the public. We HOPE to have something to announce in the next 2-3 months.

We have no staff and are completely volunteer run. As you may not know the entire Board of Directors of Point are volunteers and have been for the last 8 years that I have been on the Board. Sunita Dutt and I were the primary people who packed the 35+ years of Whole Earth and it’s history. We saved what we felt were the “treasures” with the hopes that someday we might find the right venue for public access.

Needless to say it has been a rough year and we are deeply sorry that we could not find a way to keep the current publication going. The magazine business is tough and with Point’s dependence on 35% plus of it’s operating costs coming from donations in the tough economic times of the last few years we just couldn’t make ends meet.

Whole Earth the magazine is now dark, but Whole Earth does have some kind of future. The players who step forward with time, commitment and cash and want to make a new vision possible will determine the future.

Thank you all for your support.

All the best,

Danica

PS if you are inclined to help out we are taking donation at:


https://secure.groundspring.org/dn/index.php?aid=85



Posted by: Danica Remy on 21 Apr 04

Oh, and here is the press release I didn't find time to actually release. The moving was REALLY a lot of work!

Danica

WHOLE EARTH CATALOG’S PUBLISHER EVOLVES

Cultural icon moves to San Francisco Presidio, takes break from publishing while assessing its publishing future

March 30, 2004

San Francisco, California – Point Foundation, the publisher of the 35-year-old Whole Earth Catalog and its associated magazines, announced today that it is suspending publishing while stepping back to evaluate its options. It is moving its offices from San Rafael, where it has been located since 1997, to the Presidio in San Francisco.

The Whole Earth Catalog, first published in 1968, was seen by many people as a symbol of the late 1960s and the early 1970s. It offered access to tools and ideas for self-education, self-care, and personal empowerment, as alternatives to institutionalized education, religion, medicine, and business. The Catalog and its successor publications are credited with introducing the public to topics ranging from the Gaia Theory to medical self-care, voluntary simplicity, and alternative energy. It was the first general-interest publication to predict the ubiquitous use of the personal computer.

Sunita Dutt, a Point Foundation trustee, says, "Whole Earth played a key role in the mind shift that has taken place in the past three decades toward greater Earth consciousness and environmental sustainability. It is important that Whole Earth’s offerings and services evolve to meet the evolving needs of community, especially now that the Web is the source of much of the information once available only through the Whole Earth Catalog and its magazines.”

The spring 2003 issue (#111) was edited and designed, but Point had insufficient funds to print and distribute it. According to Whole Earth president and Point chairperson Danica Remy, attempts to raise funds did not generate enough support to print and distribute issue 111 and to provide the basis for a stable publishing future. The board was compelled to cut expenses and to suspend publication and end preliminary work on a new Whole Earth Catalog. Issue #111 will be made available as a downloadable file on the Whole Earth website, www.wholeearth.com shortly. An updated website is in the works. Many of the magazine’s articles and book reviews since 1997 remain available on the website. Back issues can still be purchased through the website and Utne Magazine, a likeminded publication will honor the existing subscription obligation to the dedicate readers.

The Point Foundation is currently focusing on making Whole Earth’s library accessible to the public. Portions of the library will be available to the public at the Thoreau Center in the Presidio within the next few months. Discussions are underway with several organizations about the possibility of managing the larger Whole Earth Collection.
The Whole Earth collection includes tens of thousands of books—many of them long out of print or otherwise unavailable—which were received and reviewed in the magazine and Catalogs. As well Point Foundation is looking for philanthropic investors to revitalize the a new long term vision for Whole Earth

"For 35 years,” says Remy, “Whole Earth’s publications offered a continuum of cutting-edge wisdom, essays, access to alternative resources, and reviews of books and products such as no other publication had done before. Whole Earth has maintained a consistent philosophical commitment to a sustainable human civilization. In our evolving form we will have to evaluate the way our programmatic activities support that commitment. We are excited about the possibilities for a new and evolving future for Whole Earth”

About Whole Earth

Point Foundation, a nonprofit organization, publishes whole Earth. Over the years, Point has supported many other projects, including the Jonah Project (the first whale-saving program), the New Alchemy Institute, and the Trust for Public Lands. Point also supplied start-up funding for Heyday Books (the leading publisher on California's native peoples and wildlife.) Point produced the first full-color map to show the earth's bioregion. In 1984, Point established the WELL (Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link), a computer teleconferencing system which pioneered community networking on the Internet.

The Whole Earth Catalog appeared in a half-dozen different complete revisions, from the 1968 Catalog to the Last Whole Earth Catalog in 1972 (winner of the National Book Award) to the Millennium Whole Earth Catalog in 1994. In 1974 Point launched a quarterly magazine in order to treat subjects discussed in the Catalog in greater depth on a more timely schedule. The magazine was called CoEvolution Quarterly until 1984, when it was renamed Whole Earth Review. It was renamed Whole Earth in 1997.

- end -

For further information:

Danica Remy
President of Whole Earth
Chair of the Point Foundation
remy@well.com


Posted by: Danica Remy on 21 Apr 04

Presidio.. sounds pretty comfy with a low NGO rent .. why not just put it online through archive.org and forgo having a beautiful office in a beatiful property with limited access to the public.


Posted by: Stephen Balbach on 21 Apr 04

Thanks Stephen,

A point of clarification, Whole Earth/Point Foundation does not have enough income to pay rent ANYWHERE for an office or the library. Any physical presence we have is courtesy of other organizations.

Danica


Posted by: Danica Remy on 22 Apr 04

I'm very sad to hear this news.When the Hog Farm brought the Medicine Ball Caravan show through Washington DC in 68 my jr high school friend Sean O'Donahue who's father started KSAN was with them and we hung out backstage.They were giving away cases of the first WEC,which we distributed several of-I was 13 and the world view I developed has been much more informed by WE than any school.
I knew these were dark days ,but this is getting ridiculous.


Posted by: S.I.Kawabunga on 29 Apr 04



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