From the Executive Director - First Column

On February 27, The New York Times carried a story by Tim Egan that underscored for me why, at that moment, my husband Dave and I were beginning to pack up computers, books, and furniture to move from our New York City loft to the Seattle metropolitan area. I had just completed 20 years with the Ford Foundation's offices in Southeast Asia and New York, making grants to promote community-based solutions to natural resource issues. Now I was about to become the executive director of the Positive Futures Network, publisher of Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures.

Buried on page 10 under a yawn-inducing headline, "Bid to Save Fish Puts West on Notice," Egan reported from Seattle on local reactions to the federal government's announcement that it may list as threatened or endangered at least a dozen salmon runs from California's Central Valley to Washington's Puget Sound.

Egan reported that farming, logging, and civic leaders as well as corporate heads of Boeing, Microsoft, and Weyerhaeuser expressed willingness to make changes in the landscape in order to restore salmon.

They did? Wait a minute! Salmon habitat isn't in just a few isolated spots, it's in the heart of cities. It's in the suburbs. It's affected by hydroelectric dams and irrigation systems. It's in the lands of mighty timber and mining companies. Restoring habitat involves changing the very industrial and settlement patterns and processes that decimated the salmon.

Forming a broad-based coalition to fight the federal government on this one ought to be a slam dunk. The slogans are well honed. "Get the feds off our backs." "Property rights are sacred." "Jobs first!" Just grab the lawyers, the PR experts, pour on money, and the battle is joined. We all know the story - and it would probably deserve page 10. But that's not what's happening. What is happening deserves page 1.

"As we work to save the salmon, it may turn out that the salmon save us," Egan quotes the mayor of Seattle as saying. Are you kidding? In a flight of fantasy, I tried to imagine those words coming from New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani.

Something unusual is happening. It doesn't lend itself well to headlines, but it does need reporting. And celebrating. And strengthening. Such changes in the public consciousness - and sometimes in elected officials and corporate executives - of course are not limited to the Northwest. They're happening all over the United States and indeed the world. Nor is the Northwest a paragon in its treatment of the environment, as a flight over its clear-cut mountains, suburban sprawl, and horrific traffic jams instantly reveals. And lots of fights lie ahead as the parties negotiate practical steps to restoring the salmon.

But somehow Northwesterners are particularly "out there" on these issues, with an unusual readiness to lead our mainstream culture to a deeper recognition of our interconnection with the Earth and each other. The common parlance of many in the region encodes novel and possibly revolutionary ideas - pedestrian-friendly communities, co-housing, voluntary simplicity, urban growth boundaries, and local currency systems.

It's no coincidence that the Positive Futures Network and its publication YES! A Journal of Positive Futures were born in the Seattle metro region. While the Network is national and international in its scope and reach, its Northwest location provides a great setting for keeping an ear to the ground for the ideas and actions that may lead us out of what seem to be the intractable conflicts of economic growth and environmental limits, the global economy and local communities, social breakdown and spiritual transformation.

Dave and I have now landed on lovely Bainbridge Island. Dave's already hard at work on a sequel to his 1995 book, When Corporations Rule the World. And I'm running as fast as I can to catch up with the staff at the Positive Futures Network. I am continually amazed at the quality of the people associated with this endeavor - staff, board, volunteers, interns, editorial advisors, area representatives, donors, and subscribers. This organization's loaded with talent, commitment, vision, and energy!

I am delighted to be here and eager to help the organization serve all of you in working toward a just, sustainable, and compassionate future for all.

Fran Korten
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