Letter From the Editor
Editor Sarah Van Gelder reflects on the WTO, peacebuilding, and the zen of double zeros.
Several things have coalesced to make me feel particularly hopeful as we begin this new century. The days are beginning to get longer, and the rare cloudless nights here in the Northwest are all the more precious for the appearance of stars. I am relieved and grateful that the millennium brought celebration and not chaos as it reached each of the Earth’s time zones. And I am having fun with all these dates ending in oh, oh – there’s something about the emptiness of these two zeros that has a Zen feeling to it – an emptiness that suggests space for new beginnings.
But what has made me the most hopeful is the week I spent in marches, rallies, strategy meetings, and teach-ins during the World Trade Organization ministerial meetings. It was encouraging to see clarity among those who came to Seattle about the role of corporate globalization in the destruction of ecosystems, communities, and democratic rights. And it was exciting to sense the unity among steelworkers who linked arms with those fighting the clearcutting of ancient redwoods, Canadian farmers who talked strategy with farmers from the Philippines, religious leaders who led a human chain to call for a break in Third World debt, young people, international human rights advocates, drummers, kids dressed up as sea turtles, sweat shop activists. The WTO, with its ambitions to sweep away barriers to trade – regardless of their benefit to people and the planet – brought us together. And, as Paul Hawken reports (see page 45), the week in Seattle was a life-changing experience.
The Seattle events closed out the last century with a show of unity about saying “no” to corporate globalization. Now, as we enter the new century, we also need to keep our eye on the “yes.” What is this shift toward a just, sustainable, and compassionate world all about? What is it that we hope to build?
Some years ago, cultural historian Thomas Berry called for a new story to replace the story that motivates the destruction of Earth’s ecosystems and communities. New stories are emerging. They were told on the streets of Seattle, where the use of consensus processes and distributed leadership empowered demonstrators. The stories are being told by scientists who are developing new insights into the makeup and requisites of life. They are being told in Macedonia, where peacebuilding helped prevent inter-ethnic violence; among indigenous people who draw on both their traditional ways and on modern science to reclaim their health; and in communities experimenting with ecological design.
These new stories penetrate deep into our sense of what it means to be human, changing our experience of the Divine, our ways of welcoming new life into the world, and our beliefs about what we will leave behind. We call them new stories, but they actually draw on very old stories of the unfolding of the universe and human civilizations, along with our newest discoveries about the Earth’s life-sustaining capacities and the quantum qualities of life.
What a time to be alive! Here’s to imbuing those double zeros with all our stories of a just, sustainable, and compassionate century.