YES! Turns 15
Welcome to the 15th anniversary issue of YES! Magazine.
We began YES! in the basement of a house. A visitor back then would have walked past a deep blue Earth flag on the entry wall, ducked under some cables that connected the offices to the internet, and found a small, busy group of staff and volunteers, working away at old Macintosh computers, surrounded by stacks of books and papers.
Like many start-ups, we had few resources but a lot of passion. We felt that we had a story to tell, but, even more, that we had a lot of questions.
At the time, Clinton was in the White House. The economy seemed to be booming, and the United States was, at least nominally, at peace. But we felt that our society was on an unsustainable track. Climate change, species extinctions, the growing inequality between rich and poor, the obsession with consumerism, the increasing power of corporations and Wall Street—all signaled that big change was needed.
A few in the media were reporting on these issues, but almost no one was reporting on the people answering these challenges by restoring ecosystems, reaching across divides, and working to create better communities.
It turned out people were looking for these sorts of stories, and our readership grew. Many tell us that YES! helps readers see that they aren’t alone in their aspirations, and encourages them to get involved in making the world a better place.
Those comments tell us we’re doing our job, because we don’t believe there is a single leader somewhere who is going to show us all how to live better or to re-orient our world. We believe the changes are coming from you, and me, and that person over there. That’s why we decided to highlight some of the people we find especially inspiring in this anniversary issue.
After 15 years of encountering extraordinary people, there were hundreds we could have chosen—so we turned to long-time grassroots leaders, activists, authors, artists, board members, advisors, and to you, our readers, to help us identify the people you most admire.
As I’ve gotten to know these “Breakthrough 15,” I’ve been struck by how much each of them does to bring people together and to encourage those they work with to discover their own power. These are individuals who aren’t looking to get attention for themselves, so you may not have heard of them. They lead from the ground up, planting the seeds of great ideas and then helping them take hold.
In each case, they tune in to some of the deepest needs of our time, whether it’s for art and beauty, for food that can nourish our bodies without depleting the soil, for universal access to health care, or for dignity at work.
As we were preparing this issue, Occupy Wall Street came onto the scene. (Check out the book we just completed, This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement). This movement takes this sort of humble leadership to another level. Decisions at the Occupy gatherings’ general assemblies are made by consensus, and no single individual stands out; instead, there are opportunities for everyone to offer leadership.
YES! has been out of the basement for a decade. And we’re thinking about the next 15 years, which promise to be extraordinary as the full implications of climate change and other environmental and social challenges become more evident. The sorts of activists who are showing up, such as those featured here and at Occupy Wall Street, are more needed than ever.
Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for The YES! Breakthrough 15, the Winter 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is executive editor of YES!Interested?
- 15 Years of Saying YES!
Video: 15 years ago, YES! Magazine's founders wondered if, amidst the doom and gloom, there was a place for journalism about hope and possibility. They found their answer.
- Meet 15 Extraordinary People Transforming the Way We Live
The YES! Breakthrough 15: The justice warriors, eco-innovators, happiness architects, and change artists who are shattering our sense of powerlessness.
- This Changes Everything: How the 99% Woke Up
Introducing the movement that’s shifting our vision of what kind of world is possible—from the new book, “This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement.”
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