If you’re lucky, there is a relationship in your life that profoundly determines your fate, that sets off a chain reaction of cause and effect that reverberates over decades, that deeply influences your place in the world. I was fortunate to have such a relationship of more than 30 years with a friend, mentor, and business partner named Sidney Brinckerhoff. The longtime Tucsonan, who had lived the last 20 years in the Pacific Northwest, died in early January.
In 1989, five years into publishing the Tucson Weekly, my founding copartner and I split ways. Our handful of minority shareholders was forced to choose between us. At a climactic meeting after a month of drama, Sid led the charge to reject an offer from an out-of-town suitor; my partner (who was in cahoots with them) resigned; and yours truly was now the editor and publisher of a newspaper on the verge of collapse. Within a few weeks, I drove away from Sid’s house with a check for $250,000 to fund my brand new business plan. Just 29 years old, I was full of apprehension, optimism, and sheer exuberance. Sid saved the Tucson Weekly, and would do so a few more times in the decade ahead.
To this day, Sid’s admonition to me to “work with alacrity” rings in my ears. We faced a multitude of challenges over the years, but our good humor remained intact, our mutual respect deepened, and our willingness to continue our merry slog around new obstacles never wavered. We would make a pot of tea, sit down to review my always-changing plans, and part ways with a hug.
“Thank you, Sid” is a refrain I’ve said aloud and to myself many times over the years: at junctures when my gratitude for the present moment was overwhelming, when that cause and effect was resonant, when cognizance of what has continued to unfold as a result of our partnership was palpable.
Everything I’ve had the opportunity to pursue since selling the Tucson Weekly in 2000—including creating Edible Baja Arizona—is a direct result of Sid’s willingness to take a big chance that brutally hot summer of 1989 on a young dreamer who just wanted to keep publishing his newspaper. Thank you, Sid.
In her poignant portrayal of the struggle of food workers—from fast-food employees to farmworkers—to feed themselves, Debbie Weingarten’s story explores what the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Initiative, approved by voters last November, means to the more than 30 percent of Arizona’s workforce who toil in the food industry. She quotes Michael Pollan: “Cheap food is an illusion. The real cost of the food is paid somewhere. And if it isn’t paid at the cash register, it’s charged to the environment, or to the public purse in the form of subsidies.” Every bite of food you eat is derived from a complex series of economic decisions. We owe a huge debt to those whose labor results in the food on our plates.
In John Washington’s feature on Biosphere 2, he writes that what began as “an ecotechnical dream” more than 30 years ago has become, with the involvement of the University of Arizona, “a giant, multimission lab and tourist destination.” As Biosphere 2 celebrates its 30th birthday this coming Earth Day, the sprawling project embodies the “spirit of exploration” of its founders more than ever. “The Biosphere 2 is a magnifying glass,” says its deputy director John Adams, “giving scientists and visitors alike a new view not only of individually controlled variables but also of entire real and imagined systems.”
As always, there is so much more to discover in this issue. Please enjoy, and we’ll see you around the table.
—Douglas Biggers, editor and publisher