Donella Meadows was a well known voice in the sustainability movement and in particular the systems dynamics community. She was lead author of Limits to Growth in 1992, wrote a syndicated column called Global Citizen, and was adjunct professor at Dartmouth College before passing away in February 2002.
April 20, 1992
To Whom It May Concern
Every now and then at Dartmouth I meet a student who is clearly already on his or her life path. Jon Kohl is one of those. He is a journalist and an entrepreneur and an environmentalist. He is aiming at combining these characteristics and becoming an environmental communicator, or I would guess a publisher of environmental communicators.
As a sophomore Jon created Sense of Place, the Dartmouth students electronic environmental magazine. (Electronic so it wont consume trees it goes out over the computer network to about 1000 subscribers.) He conceived of that magazine, including its path-breaking use of the computer, he shepherded it into being, he set its high standards (for illustration and layout as well as writing), and he has institutionalized it so it now continues without him, while he goes on to other endeavors. That achievement took a combination of imagination, patience, managerial ability, and sheer forcefulness that would be unusual even in a much more mature person.
Jon Kohl is intelligent, self-motivated, serious, and single-minded. He works hard to learn the scientific foundation for environmental activism, as well as to carry out the activism. At Dartmouth Jon has pushed himself into many opportunities to learn and to test himself, from an off-campus term at a tropical research station to a graduate course in global climate change. You can count on him to show up at meetings and seminars and demonstrations, to participate fully, and to reflect upon and draw lessons from whatever happens.
Jon pushes not only himself, but everyone around him. He is too exacting to be very popular with more easy-going students; he achieves his results more through persistence than persuasion, and he can be insensitive and even dictatorial in order to achieve his never-ending stream of good ideas. He is eager to please, however, and takes honest feedback more openly and thoughtfully than most students do.
I was surprised to discover when Jon took my environmental journalism class that he does not write easily or naturally. His first drafts for me where often unclear and wordy. But he was dogged at responding to editing. He wrote and rewrote with remarkable patience until he got it right. And he was always struggling to put across an original idea; he was not rehashing or imitating.
Because he has to work so hard at his writing, my guess is that Jons future will not be a s a write per se, but more as a publisher, an innovator, a creator of venues for writers as he has been at Dartmouth. Though, who knows? Jon is burning to communicate and fascinated by words; he mainly needs to learn to discipline himself to use them precisely. He is so determined and works so hard that his writing may improve greatly as he matures.
Jon is an unusual, talented, and formidable young man. His dedication to the environment and to journalism is unquestionable. He intends to use his creativity to make the world better. I think anyone who can give him a boost toward that end ought to go ahead and do it.
March 22, 2005