WOWOW: Welcome to wowOwow. We are thrilled to have Maria Rodale with us today, and she has written a very important, very disturbing book called Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World and Keep Us Safe. I couldn’t be happier to have you here, Maria.
MARIA RODALE: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.
WOW: You know, you have quite a distinguished family, past, history – everything. So before we get to this spectacular book, I just wanted our readers to know that you are the CEO and chairman of Rodale Inc., which is — in the world of book and magazine publishing — one of the leading media companies with a focus on health and nutrition. And I know you’ve won numerous awards, including the National Audubon Society Rachel Carson Award, and many others. And you have written — is it two or three previous books?
MARIA: Three previous books.
WOW: Three previous books, an esteemed author and a spectacular publisher. So we’re thrilled to have you.
MARIA: Thank you so much.
WOW: So tell us, I mean I don’t want to steal your thunder – I seem to know more about you than you do at this moment, but you come from a fantastic family background that makes you just right to have written this important book. Maybe you just tell us a little bit about your grandfather and your dad.
|There are over 80,000 chemicals in use in the environment and a small, small fraction of those has actually been tested on human health.|
MARIA: It’s my pleasure to tell you. My grandfather is considered the founder of the organic movement in America. He started publishing Organic Gardening magazine in 1942 and his interest in organic came from his own health problems. He and his whole family suffered from health problems and he had made his money on the side … well, his business was actually electrical engineering, so publishing became his kind of hobby. And the organic movement became to him the way to address his own personal health issues, and he wanted to share that with the rest of the world. So he started it, my father then continued the tradition and both of them wrote numerous books, and we still publish Organic Gardening magazine today. It’s a great magazine and it’s core to our whole philosophy as both a family and as a company.
WOW: And Prevention magazine started when? When was that launched?
MARIA: That started in 1950. What’s funny about Prevention is that because my grandfather came at organic through the lens of health, he included a lot of health information in the gardening magazine. But gardeners kept writing in and … you know, you have to realize at that time, if you wanted organic food you had to grow it yourself. But the gardeners kept writing in and saying, “You know, you’re writing too much about health. We just want to learn how to garden better.” And so he said, “OK, I’ll start a health magazine,” and he called it Prevention, and it was our most successful magazine from day one.
WOW: Isn’t that great? And you publish an array of very successful magazines.
MARIA: Yes, Men’s Health magazine, Women’s Health, Runner’s World and, of course, a lot of books, as you know.
WOW: Right. Well indeed, coming upon this book, the Organic Manifesto, I just wanted to set the tone before asking you questions about it. May I read one paragraph that comes from the book, in a section called “Evidence in the Animal World”?
“It started with frogs and alligators. Why are alligators’ penises
shrinking? Why are boy toads turning into girl toads? Why are
fireflies disappearing from the summer night skies? What’s the
cause of what has been called ‘colony collapse disorder,’ which
has been causing honeybees to disappear? Why are bats
succumbing to the mysterious White Nose disease? Perhaps
you wouldn’t care if all the bees and bats died. After all, bees
can be a pain during summer picnics, and bats can be scary.
But aside from the fact that these animals are essential to our
survival on this planet, they are also indicators of the viability of
life for us, for they are our canaries in the cold months.”
I must say, that is such a chilling call to action. Tell us a little bit about the birth of The Organic Manifesto. What prompted you to call out this alarm?