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Tim Nixon taking on global issues here at home

Tim Nixon outside his home within Willow River State Park's boundaries. (Star-Observer photo by Ricky Campbell)

Tim Nixon wants you to look around at the natural world, appreciate it for what it is, but understand that it isn’t a resource simply to use up. He wants you to enjoy it, to build for yourself a better story, a healthier life -- and provide the same opportunity for your kids, your grandkids and even your great-grandkids.

From his home overlooking Willow River State Park, Nixon has a firsthand perspective of an ecologically challenged world in need of some care. His hope is that others will join him.

Nixon, the managing editor for Thomson Reuters’ Sustainability initiative, first fell in love with the natural world as a kid -- maybe 8, 10 years old, he said -- growing up in Minnesota with a duck-hunting father. With poetry, he paints a picture of watching the sunrise; the sounds of birds surrounding him in the middle of a beautiful world and its diverse habitats.

Since then, he’s been around the world, bearing witness to the impact small, conscious decisions have made for a planet struggling with innumerable environmental issues.

“I think what’s most interesting about it is this global-local idea,” Nixon said. “Biodiversity loss is a global problem and a global risk. The more we lose biodiversity the less resilient we are as a planet to respond to all the kind of changes that are happening. Honeybee loss is an obvious example that most folks might be aware of.”

Biodiversity loss -- or ecosystems lacking variety -- Nixon said, is happening at Willow River, the surrounding region and throughout the globe. With some help, however, Nixon has been able to weed out invasive species, reintroduce native species and lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future.


Nixon’s job with Reuters, based out of Eagan, Minn., is overseeing its sustainability project. He writes about environmental issues, follows trends, analyzes data and talks to CEOs and policymakers on ways to enhance life on Earth. The initiative recently teamed up with Reuters journalists to outline seven reasons the world will be sustainable.

The catalysts to reduce disaster? Reuters points to “catastrophe,” “investors,” “regulators,” “transparency,” “science and innovation,” “collaborators” and “heroes:” a broad scope of people and programs working to “pull our planet from the brink and put it on the path to sustainability.”

“What does sustainability mean in their organizations?” Nixon said. “Because sustainability means almost everything and nothing. (We) talk to someone who’s doing it and how they’re doing it.”

From Hudson-based farm equipment provider Harvest Tec to multinational corporation Unilever, Nixon said companies are embracing a global trend to be more conscientious about their footprints, understanding that environmental issues have an impact on economies and future productivity. Then there’s the CEOs, top chiefs within the Environmental Protection Agency and scientists with abounding research at their fingertips -- people who have a stake in the public understanding of these goals.

Now, in his new project with Reuters, Nixon wants to talk with you -- the person or family making the outright choices you believe will help the future of the planet.

“I don’t want to impose my agenda,” Nixon said, mentioning an emphasis on biodiversity. “Here’s a global issue that a lot of people wrestle with, and here’s a trend, and here are some people locally who are actually working on this.”

“Laying out the fabric of this is potentially powerful,” he added.

Don’t sound the alarm

Asked if some would call him an alarmist, Nixon said it’s more about stepping back and looking at the broader picture.

“An alarmist is a really hard thing to be on this issue because results, consequences don’t happen tomorrow,” he said. “These are really hard issues because the consequences we talk about tomorrow are scientific probabilities and they happen many, many years into the future. So to be an alarmist makes you be kind of an idiot, frankly.”

Nixon also said there’s reason to celebrate: Bald eagles are being seen along the St. Croix River because “we decided as a nation that we were polluting the ecosystem with DDT and we ought to stop doing that.

“It’s those kind of decisions that reflect a relationship with the natural world than just a resource to use up,” he added.

The little decisions add up, Nixon believes. Whether it’s turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth or shifting into carpooling during a commute into the cities, there’s hope, he said, for the planet to have a more sustainable future.

“Not every issue is going to matter to everyone. I think what this comes down to is thinking about the natural world as not just something you use up to live better. That’s what it was for the United States and the developing world for 150 years and that’s how we built our economy. But that’s not a relationship we can continue to have,” Nixon said.

He adds: “It’s not about many people doing it -- although that’s great too -- but just one person doing the right thing over a long time in front of other people who can be influenced, like children, matters a ton. It has a way of propagating itself.”

For more information on Reuters sustainability project, visit If you’re interested in joining Nixon’s new narrative, he can be reached by email: timothy[dot]nixon[at]thomsonreuters[dot]com.