The YES! Breakthrough 15

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Inside Our Winter Issue

The YES! Breakthrough 15
YES! Magazine Issue 60 Winter 2012

Breakthrough 15 logo

Meet the justice warriors, eco-innovators, happiness architects, and change artists who are transforming the way we live.




TOC Heroes

15 Extraordinary People Transforming the Way We Live

To celebrate 15 years of YES! Magazine, we asked some of our longtime heroes to choose 15 people whose ideas and work are transforming the way we live. Here’s who they picked.

New Economy Bar

Ai-jen Poo: Organizing Labor—With Love

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH : “It’s precisely the people who are considered the least ‘likely’ leaders who end up inspiring others the most. Everyday people and everyday acts of courage eventually change everything.” —Ai-Jen Poo


Nominated by

Eve EnslerVan Jones


“To me she symbolizes what a true activist is.  She does not believe in dominating with power, but … in sharing it. The domestic workers’ movement has been transformed by her fierce yet humble leadership." —Eve Ensler

TOC Henry Red Cloud

Henry Red Cloud: Solar Warrior


Nominated by

Naomi Klein

“Tribes are under intense pressure to allow their lands to be punctured by fossil fuel development. Red Cloud is showing that there is another path out of poverty."

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “Hope is the most important thing that people need to regain. I just want to be one example of someone who overcame hardships—one source of hope. That’s all we need to start seeing possibilities for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren.” —Henry Red Cloud

TOC Deepak Bhargava

Deepak Bhargava:
A Voice for the Grassroots
Inside the Beltway


Nominated by

Pramila Jayapal

“Deepak lifts up real leadership from the grassroots. He is one of those people I am certain will change the world dramatically for the better."

  • PLUS: "The wealth of this nation is created by all of us together. We will rise or fall as a community. Together, we can build an economy that rewards and cares for all of us." -download the poster with Deepak Bhargava's quote

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “Throughout history, social change—abolition, suffrage, civil rights, and worker rights—has depended on the work of millions of people. We are called today to build another such movement for a just society—and each and every person can make a unique and powerful contribution.” —Deepak Bhargava

Planet Bar

TOC Will Allen

Will Allen: Growing Justice
in Food Deserts


Nominated by

Regina Seigel

“I feel this is one of the most important issues today, and he has the answers right there in his home-made systems."

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “Go out and take action regardless of how perfect your initial project will be … go into action, because we as a society have got to the point where we like to sit around and plan things and do feasibility studies and lock them away in a closet. Now is the era for going into action.” —Will Allen

TOC Wes Jackson

Wes Jackson: The Seeds of a Perennial Revolution


Nominated by

Wendell Berry

“I know of nobody who has thought more carefully or responsibly about the problems of agriculture and their possible solutions.”

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “Most people want to see immediate results from our work. At the Institute, we like to joke with each other: ‘If you’re working on something you can finish in your lifetime, you’re not asking the right questions.’” —Wes Jackson

TOC May Boeve

May Boeve: Friendship to Carry Us Through Crisis


Nominated by

Colin Beavan

“The global climate protests of grew from friendship among May Boeve and a group of college kids who wanted to help the world. They show us what we, too, can achieve through community.

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH:“Believe that the world can change, and commit to your part of the solution. Look at the world with clear eyes, but remain hopeful, and celebrate! When you feel challenged, reach out and reach in.” —May Boeve

TOC Jason McLennan

Jason F. McLennan: Bringing Buildings to Life


Nominated by


David Korten

“Jason’s ability to combine breakthrough thinking with large-scale practical application exceeds that of any of the extraordinary social innovators it has been my privilege to know.”

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “I believe in the 3/4-baked philosophy. People chase perfection—trying to ‘fully bake’ their ideas before they share them with the world. Too many people end up never sharing their ideas, songs, dreams, novels, and inventions. The 3/4-baked philosophy is about finding that right time to share your work—letting the community fully bake it. The more you do this, the more you put yourself out there, the more success you have.” —Jason F. McLennan

Happiness Bar
TOC Lily Yeh

Lily Yeh:
Beauty in Broken Places


Nominated by

Terry Tempest Williams

"I nominate Lily Yeh as a transformative leader because she is a healing grace on the planet who is fearless. She reminds us not only what is possible but necessary."

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “My light doesn’t shine bigger than anybody else’s. Kindle the light in other people, so we shine together. The light from all of us will transform the darkness of ignorance and greed in our world into compassion and joy.” —Lily Yeh

TOC Nipun Mehta

Nipun Mehta:
An Economy to Feed Your Soul


Nominated by

Meg Wheatley

“Because he embodies what he’s teaching, he meets the classic definition of a true spiritual teacher.”

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “In practice, there is no grand chasm to cross. Just do the small act of kindness for the person in front of you, right now. Small acts may or may not change the world, but they definitely change you.  And when you look at the world with fresh eyes, it’s a whole new realm of possibilities.” —Nipun Mehta

People Power Bar

TOC Tim DeChristopher

Tim DeChristopher: Sacrifice—
It's Not Too Much to Ask


Nominated by

The Yes Men

 “We’re sure Tim’s version of monkey-wrenching would have made Edward Abbey whoop and holler with delight. His actions have inspired a generation of new climate activists."

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “We think we have no power when in fact we have more than enough power.” —Tim DeChristopher

TOC Deb Richter

Dr. Deb Richter:
The Universal Cure


Nominated by

Madeline Ostrander

“She packed up and moved her life and family so she could push for the only health care solution that makes sense to us: single-payer health care.”

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “I never felt like I had a choice about getting involved in this struggle …
I couldn’t stop and I never will.” —Dr. Deb Richter

TOC Alison Smith

Alison Smith:
Elections Money Can't Buy



Paul Loeb

 “An ordinary citizen who found her voice, became a leader, and showed us it’s possible to confront the intractable: money in politics.”

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH:“I kept showing up because something about the work fed my soul … Everyone can show up for something. And who knows where it will lead?” —Alison Smith 

Peace & Justice Bar

TOC Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel: Crossing the Divide—With Faith


Nominated by

Parker Palmer

“Eboo's personal offering of heart and mind, and his widely lauded work on interfaith cooperation, give me hope in a world dangerously fragmented by religion-driven animosities.”

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “Have big dreams but focus only on what you can control: your own thoughts, words and actions. This was Gandhi’s way … in the words of Buddhist poet Gary Snyder, our job is to move the world a millionth of an inch.” —Eboo Patel

TOC Lucas Benitez

Lucas Benitez:
Dignity in the Fields


Nominated by

Frances Moore Lappe

“Lucas shows us that no matter the odds, we have a choice. He chose courage, now thousands of others have discovered theirs.”

  • PLUS VIDEO: Fair Food Fight
    How the Coalition of Immokalee Workers fights abuses in the fields.

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “Never think that you can’t do something without even trying first.” —Lucas Benitez

TOC Grace Boggs

Grace Boggs:
96 Years of New Ideas


Nominated by


Pete SeegerVince Harding

“Grace Boggs has showed hundreds of thousands of people how they can save their families by saving their home neighborhoods, and thus the world, and thus our human race.” —Pete Seeger

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH: “We must be convinced that the power of ideas is greater than that of the Pentagon and political parties. We must embrace the conviction that each one of us has the power within us to create the world anew.” —Grace Boggs

More from the Winter 2012 issue ...

Coffee Strong photo by Paul Dunn

A Brewing Resistance to War

Near the gates of Fort Lewis, anti-war veterans serve up support and solidarity (along with double-tall lattes) to their friends in uniform.

PLUS VIDEO: Grounds for Resistance
Veteran-run coffee houses give service personnel a place to express their frustrations and find help outside the military.

TOC Farming Goes Wild

Farming Goes Wild

Beyond organic—these farmers are giving nature space to run free.

PLUS PHOTO ESSAY: Farming With the Wild: How how agriculture and wildlands can both flourish—together.