For more than 30 years, Project Censored has searched out the most important undercovered stories of the year. Those stories tended to follow the standard wisdom: “Real news” is about what’s going wrong in the world. But in 2008, Project Censored began offering a new feature: a list of the top underreported stories of hope and creative change.
In the latest installment, stories of powerful ideas and practical actions from YES! Magazine once again make up the majority of the chapter.
Project Censored writes: "These stories suggest that a better world is both possible and practical… and that every day, all over the world, people are solving problems. The message is simple: Stop fighting or lamenting existing reality—be an innovator and help create something better."
Local Food Comes to a Neighborhood Near You
Communities across the United States are turning to local food to improve health, strengthen the local economy, and bring fresh foods to those living in food deserts. While school cafeterias, such as those in Boulder, Colo., incorporate fresh and regional produce to combat obesity, University of California students have launched a movement to serve 20 percent “real” food on campus by 2020: referring to products that are local, fairly traded, and environmentally sound. In Savannah, Ga., the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network regularly hosts farmers markets at historical Forsyth Park—a location African-Americans were excluded from just decades ago. Cities like Seattle and Minneapolis fund the creation of community gardens on vacant land, and San Francisco requires that all farmers markets accept food stamps. Community gardening has even gone cyber; website Hyperlocavore connects “landless gardeners with land hosts” to involve everyone in the movement.
- Smarter School Lunches by Ellen Mahoney, Jan. 12, 2010, www.yesmagazine.org.
- People We Love: Hai Vo by Berit Anderson, YES! Magazine Spring 2010, America: The Remix.
- African American Farmers Go Organic by Mark Winne, March 5, 2010, www.yesmagazine.org.
- Yard for Share: My Hyperlocavore Garden by Pamela O’Malley Chang, March 5, 2010, www.yesmagazine.org.
Outrage Turns to Action Over Supreme Court Decision on Corporate Elections Funding
Seldom since the Dred Scott decision in 1857 has a Supreme Court ruling been so clarifying, and viewed as so wrong by so many. Just as Dred Scott caused outrage by declaring black people could not enjoy full constitutional rights, the Citizens’ United case is causing outrage by declaring that corporations have the constitutional rights of people and can spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. Across the political spectrum, polls show, people oppose the decision and many are getting organized to protect the rights of real, human people to elect the representatives of their choice, free of the outsized influence of corporate treasuries.
- Real People v. Corporate "People”: The Fight is On by Doug Pibel, YES! Magazine Summer 2010, Water Solutions.
Ranchers and Tribes Agree to Protect Critical Salmon River
For years, ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, and fishermen had been at loggerheads over one of the West Coast's most important salmon rivers, the Klamath River. In 2010, the parties reached an agreement: to protect the salmon on the Klamath River following the intervention of the peoples who claim to speak for the salmon—the tribes of the Klamath Valley.
Worldwide Climate Movement Flexes Its Muscles
The December 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen did not produce a binding treaty, but they did galvanize a united international movement of people calling for solutions to stop runaway climate change. The movement builds on years of political organizing in Europe, the United States, and around the world: In Europe and Australia, civil disobedience training camps have blockaded and shut down coal-fired power plants, and in the United States, rural conservatives have joined young people to protest mountaintop removal mining. On October 24, 2009, citizens in 181 countries staged demonstrations during a global day of climate action coordinated by the group 350.org, founded by author-activist Bill McKibben. In December, climate activists delivered a petition calling for an ambitious climate treaty to the United Nations with 10 million signatures.
When negotiations broke down and leaders failed to agree on a binding deal, countries from the Global South and civil society groups stepped forward to propose their own solutions. A climate conference held in May in Cochabamba, Bolivia, drew thirty thousand people. The gatherers drew up a “People’s Agreement,” which demands that wealthy nations must slash their carbon emissions and pay for the damages that climate change will cause to developing nations.
- Rise People: The Climate Justice Movement Breaks Through by Mark Engler, YES! Magazine Winter 2010, Climate Action.
- Climate Talks End With People’s Agreement, Jim Shultz, YES! Magazine Summer 2010, Water Solutions.
- 10 Million People Petition for Climate Action, by Richard Graves, December 8, 2010, www.yesmagazine.org.
Wall Street Banking Crisis Spurs Development of State Banks
At a time of state budget crises, North Dakota has a sizable budget surplus, and while other states are cutting back on essential services and jobs, North Dakota is adding jobs. How is it different than other states? North Dakota is the only state in the United States that owns its own bank. Now, other states are taking notice. Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois, Michigan, and Virginia have bills introduced in their legislatures, and state leaders in Missouri, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Vermont are also calling for studying and developing state banks.
- More States May Create Public Banks by Ellen Brown, YES! Magazine Summer 2010, Water Solutions.
- Whose Bank? Public Investment, Not Private Debt by Ellen Brown, Feb 19, 2010, www.yesmagazine.org.
Happiness, Not Economic Growth, Is Becoming the Goal
Increasing numbers are recognizing that growth-at-all-costs policies can’t continue: Growth-based policies may increase the wealth for the already rich, but they have failed to result in broad well-being. And fast growing economies are hitting up against limits to the planet’s natural resources (including energy) and sinks for wastes (like the atmosphere). Global surveys confirm that the happiest peoples are not those living in countries with the highest growth rates or the most wealth, but those with the most equity, “social solidarity,” work-life balance, and strong safety nets. Happiness is emerging as a substitute goal among researchers and leading policy makers, in the European Union, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in the kingdom of Bhutan, and increasingly, in the United States.
- Putting the Science of Happiness Into Practice by John de Graaf, Dec 06, 2009, www.yesmagazine.org.
New research shows that, among developed countries, the healthiest and happiest aren't those with the highest incomes but those with the most equality.
- Want the Good Life? Your Neighbors Need It, Too, by Brooke Jarvis, March 4, 2010, www.yesmagazine.org.
Worker Ownership Burgeoning in the United States
Corporate outsourcing and trade policies that encourage the movement of production to the world’s lowest-wage countries had already created long-term unemployment and community decline before the 2008 economic crash. But in the last two years, these trends have only gotten worse. Those facts are well covered in the media, but what is unreported is the growth of cooperatives, which are creating the sorts of jobs that can’t pick up and move overseas, while helping some communities make a green economic recovery. Worker-owned coops are just one segment of the 30,000 cooperative business in the U.S. generating $500 billion in revenue.
- Worker Co-ops: Green and Just Jobs You Can Own by James Trimarco and Jill Bamburg, YES! Magazine, Summer 2009, The New Economy.
- Cleveland’s Worker-Owned Boom by Ted Howard, Steve Dubb, and Gar Alperovitz, YES! Magazine, Summer 2009, The New Economy.
These cooperatives are among the many inspired by the Mondragon cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain:
- When Worker-Owners Decide How to Ride Out a Downturn by Georgia Kelly and Shaula Massena, YES! Magazine, Summer 2009, The New Economy.
Citizen Budgeting Comes to the U.S.
Born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, participatory budgeting has come to Chicago's 49th ward, the first place in the United States to adopt the practice that allows taxpayers to directly decide how to spend public money. Over 1,600 community members got involved in the process: proposing project ideas, planning budgets, and voting on which they felt were most important. Participatory budgeting has already spread to cities throughout Latin America and Europe, where the process keeps government spending transparent, changes governmental priorities, and makes democracy palpable.