After 20 Years Reporting on Solutions, I’m Going on a Journey to Find Where Hope Lies Now

YES! co-founder Sarah van Gelder sets out on a road trip to find the edge of change.
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My name is Sarah van Gelder. I’m co-founder of YES! Magazine.

Beginning in August 2015, I’m taking a road trip with a set of questions that have been building in my mind until I can no longer ignore them. Questions about the climate crisis: Is there still time before irreversible changes kick in? Questions about racial divides: How can we finally take on a legacy that continues to traumatize people, especially people of color? And questions about the economy: Is a middle class way of life a thing of the past as wealth and power concentrates in the hands of the 1 percent, or might there be a better, more localized way to organize our economy? In other words, is there still hope?

This is an evolving journey, and I invite you to share your ideas for places I should visit, people I should talk with, events I should attend and topics I should tackle.

I leave on my journey from Seattle in the midst of a summer of record-high temperatures, with mountains naked of snow and forest fires that color the skies. A drought along much of the West Coast is drying and heating the streams and rivers that support salmon runs and farmlands. Even cities in the normally rain-soaked Northwest may run short of water. Meanwhile, Seattle is getting so expensive that poor and middle-class people are leaving for the outer suburbs. And during a count last January, volunteers found more than 3,500 people sleeping outside.

I am leaving on this trip in search of authentic hope. I believe that there is enormous intelligence, creativity, and constructive energy at the grassroots, and I want to find the responses that are gaining power and momentum.

After nearly 20 years editing YES!, I am proud of the solutions-oriented stories we’ve lifted up and the ideas we’ve brought to light. This journey will build on that work, but it will be an open inquiry. I am leaving home, alone, not knowing what answers I will find. What I do find, I’ll blog about here, I’ll write about at yesmagazine.org, and I’ll bring to the editing of future issues of YES! Magazine. At the end of the road, I plan to pull together my stories into a book. More on that later.

This is an evolving journey, and I invite you to share your ideas for places I should visit, people I should talk with, events I should attend and topics I should tackle. My plan is to head east from Seattle through the plains and into the Midwest. Then, as the weather gets cold, I’ll head south, for Appalachia and the deep south before turning west for a trip through the border region. My focus will be on the margin—the rust belt cities, Native reservations, sustainable farms, and community dialogues where deep change is happening.

Where do you see powerful, grassroots change? Tweet your ideas and tips to #EdgeOfChange or leave a comment below.