It's easy to get really down these days. We watch our top officials proclaim the rules of empire to justify war when all around we hear the desperate cries for healing—of the planet, of our communities, of our children.
Can we hold the terrible reality of war in our hearts and still move on? I'm hearing from lots of you that you're finding it hard. Me too. But then I hear a voice that says, Wait—we're resilient people. We can be the future we want. We're big enough to hold the terrible and the possible in our hearts at the same time.
Let me share a couple of stories of people doing just that.
In October at the Fetzer Institute in Michigan, we held our seventh State of the Possible retreat. One of our par-ticipants was Carolyn Lukensmeyer, founder of AmericaSpeaks (see Resource Guide, page 47). Carolyn is passionate about democratic dialogue and knows a lot about how to make it happen. She told of facilitating an extraordinary conversation among over 4,000 people in New York City last July. The topic? How to rebuild Ground Zero and the neighborhoods surrounding it.
The forum participants were drawn from all over the city and beyond. Over half lived or worked in Lower Manhattan. A third had been at or near Ground Zero on the fateful day of the attacks.
They sat at over
400 tables of 10 people each in the mammoth Jacob Javits Center in New
York. With conversation, computers, and keypads, they voiced their
views. Everyone wanted a memorial fitting to the
immensity of the tragedy and the magnitude of the heroism.
they wanted more than a memorial. They wanted a living community. They
wanted retail businesses and places for theater and art, for playing in
a park, and for walking along the river. They wanted housing that
accommodated poor people, rich people, and everyone in between. They wanted convenient public transportation and streets that connected rather than separated the neighborhoods. As one participant put it, we want “to build a new heart for New York City.” Public officials have listened and are re-drafting plans to incorporate the key elements voiced at the forum. They're now open to more public input.
Most of the forum's participants had the horror of the attacks deeply etched in their lives. Yet in less than a year they were ready to envision a revitalized community—one more lively, more inclusive, more connected than what had been before. They—and the remarkable coalition of government, academic, business, and civic organizations of New York that sponsored the conversation—were ready to move on.
another story. We all know the current US administration backed out of
the Kyoto agreement on global warming. Adding insult to injury, in June
of this year the Environmental Protection Agency issued a report
saying, Yes, it's true, global warming is real. It's caused by human activity, the US is the biggest polluter, and the effects will devastate our coastal areas and mountains, as well as much of the whole world. But, sorry, it's too late; there's little we can do about it. That message, from people who are supposed to be our leaders, can be
discouraging to the point of paralysis.
The folks in San Francisco didn't let that stop them. A group of visionaries dreamed big. They put to the voters a $100 million bond measure to be used to save energy, shift to solar and other renewable energy sources, and shut down dirty generating plants. They mounted an incredibly smart campaign. Can you imagine the Chamber of Commerce, the Sierra Club, and a coalition of local labor unions all endorsing the same measure? That's what happened. And last November, the voters passed the bond by a whopping 73 percent. Already the money is being used to retrofit the city's big Moscone Center for energy efficiency and solar power.
Recently I spoke with David Hochschild, one of
the leaders of San Francisco's bond campaign. He told me that since the
measure's passage, officials from more than 15 cities have called to
learn more about taking similar steps—places like San Diego, Honolulu,
Salt Lake City, New York. The opportunity to spread San Francisco's
model prompted David to found a new organization to help other cities
follow San Francisco's lead (see votesolar.org).
Those visionaries in San Francisco didn't let the bad news from the top of our government stop them. They laid down a pathway to change, and now others are walking it.
We can all do that. You have your own stories of vision and resilience. You read them in YES! Without question, in the days and months ahead there will be much to resist. And resist we must. But we must also keep moving on. We can be the future we desire.
Fran Korten is Executive Director of the Positive Futures Network.