Sunflower Horizons

Writer calls for better environmental foresight in new book

October 24, 2011


Bryan Welch

Bryan Welch

In 2007, Bryan Welch nearly killed himself on a twisty mountain road in Oregon.

He was on a motorcycle and entering what is the bane of inexperienced riders — a curve that begins with a gentle arc and gradually becomes smaller. To successfully ride through it, a rider leans into the curve and visualizes the exit.

But Welch lost his nerve. He did what motorcyclists are never supposed to do. He slowed down in the middle of a high-speed curve. He quickly found himself bouncing off a guardrail and went down in the middle of the road at 50 mph.

He walked away from the crash with some major bruises, a ruined helmet and a new perspective on the country’s environmental movement.

Welch, a Lawrence resident and publisher of Mother Earth News, shares the story of the crash in his recently released book, “Beautiful and Abundant.” And as he does, he compares his fear of not being able to successfully navigate the curve to how humans are preparing for the future.

To him, worries about climate change and other doom-and-gloom environmental disaster scenarios are the guardrail that is occupying too much of our attention and keeping us from envisioning a positive future.

“I didn’t wreck because the curve wasn’t rideable. I didn’t wreck because I didn’t know how to carve my way through a corner. I wrecked because I lost confidence in completing it successfully,” Welch said in a recent interview. “We are in danger of becoming so distracted by environmental obstacles that we forget to plan for the future we want to create.”

By nature, Welch is an optimist. But even he had a sense of environmental foreboding in his 20s.

“I came to realize how counterproductive that state of mind was,” he said.

Welch is publisher and editorial director of Ogden Publications, a Topeka-based company that publishes Natural Home and Garden and Utne Reader along with Mother Earth News.

So what’s the world that Welch envisions?

It’s one where there are true pieces of wilderness on every continent and for every environment. Welch’s picture of the future involves a new kind of capitalism where companies are valued not just on superficial costs, but their ability to conscientiously make things that are truly durable.

He’d like to see a world were creativity is rewarded and no one is excluded from financial success, regardless of their nationality. It’s also one with clean air, clean water and a chance for everyone who wishes to grow their own food.

“It is important when visualizing to set aside what you think of as a given fact and to (visualize) without being too realistic,”  he said.

While Welch’s book isn’t available in any local bookstores, it can be purchased at, where it has had success in a digital format.

His hope is that it will reach out to those who don’t traditionally read books on sustainability and prompt them to start thinking about it.

“If we don’t visualize achievement, our chances of realizing that achievement are virtually nil,” Welch said.

Welch will discuss his book at 3 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 7 months ago

Interesting metaphor. But perhaps a more apt metaphor would be heading for a cliff full speed, even though there are other routes that aren't guaranteed disaster.

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