In the magazine trade, editors refer to practical, how-to content as “service pieces” or “news you can use.” Audubon does a lot of service articles, because they're fun and because they're so popular with readers. We give you advice on everything from creating a wildlife-friendly pond in your backyard to building a nest box for a flycatcher or a screech owl. Several years ago we ran a short item about a couple in eastern Kansas who were eager to share their instructions for fashioning purple martin homes out of gourds. No sooner did the story appear than the post office showed up at their door with mailbags stuffed with requests from Audubon readers. By the time the letter carrier lugged the last bag to them, the couple had received 500 letters!

The overwhelming response to the magazine's most popular service piece ever, “The Audubon Guide to Seafood,” which ran in the May-June 1998 issue, caught us off guard. We didn't expect it to generate thousands of requests for reprints, inspire The Seafood Lover's Almanac, or get reprinted in The New York Times (and, to top it off, be honored as a finalist for a National Magazine Award). The guide clearly caught the first wave of consciousness about the depletion of so many of the earth's fish species—the last wildlife consumed worldwide. Rick Moonen, a gourmet seafood chef and a leader of the Give Swordfish a Break campaign, who is profiled in this issue (“A Taste for Conservation”), tells me he knew his efforts were reaching critical mass when he saw David Letterman discuss the issue on his show. Today seafood guides are a cottage industry; diners can tuck versions, produced by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and other groups, into their wallets.

Sustainable seafood now represents a small part of an expanding market for food that's good for you and good for the planet. Organic food alone is a $9.5 billion industry. In this issue we profile, in addition to Moonen, chefs who promote organics, naturally raised meats, and vegetarianism; each chef is a celebrity-cum-activist in the culinary world. Taken together, their message extends well beyond these pages to television cooking shows and lifestyle magazines, putting the chefs at the forefront of a crusade to enlighten the public about where food comes from and its environmental impact. For example, if you aren't yet buying organic, consider some of these costs: From 1964 through 2002 the amount of pesticides used on crops annually more than doubled, from 215 million pounds to 511 million pounds. Each year 72 million birds die from pesticide poisoning.

Choosing and buying “sustainable cuisine” can pose daunting challenges. In coming issues and on the Audubon website (www.audubon.org, click on Audubon at Home), we will do our best to help you make informed decisions. What it comes down to is that your earth is what you eat.

© 2004 National Audubon Society

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