Don’t Let the Apocalypse Get You Down
The climate crisis is spinning out of control, and the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow unabated. It’s time to let the radical uncertainty of this moment enlarge our sense of possibility.
Is YES! Magazine going all apocalyptic? No, we haven’t run out of hope, and we aren’t giving up on transformation. To the contrary, the precariousness of our future is inspiring us to get radical—to look for change that goes to the roots of our culture.
We humans are in an untenable moment. The window we have to take on the climate crisis is small. The poor and middle class are getting poorer. Species around the world are dying, and along with them the web of life. And many of the change strategies of the past are stymied; marches on Washington get ignored, and the federal government is largely captured by big-money interests.
So for this issue of YES! we asked how change can happen—and how it is happening now. What strategies are imaginative and powerful enough to meet the opportunities and the dangers of this moment?
We didn’t find any one-size-fits-all answers. But we did find approaches to change that blend the best of new and old, and we found shifts in attitude that suggest new openings:
- Many are questioning old stories of progress born of technology and economic growth. Robert Jensen recommends (page 25) that we acknowledge the apocalyptic nature of our times, freeing ourselves to create new stories.
- Indigenous people worldwide are on the front lines of the battle against climate change. They are blockading tar sands pipelines, protesting oil drilling and fracking, and protecting land they are determined to leave intact for future generations (see page 28). Many others, including ranchers and other red state land owners, young people, and urban environmental justice activists, are also taking action.
- There is growing willingness to name corporate rule and global capitalism as key problems, and to look to decentralized, place-based economies as the answer. While capitalism is viewed more favorably among all Americans than socialism, the reverse is true among those under 29, African Americans and Hispanics, and those making less than $30,000 a year, according to a Pew poll. And more Americans have a favorable view of socialism than of the Tea Party.
- Old divides between issues—like environment versus jobs—are coming down. Young leaders we spoke to (page 18) are committed to social justice and environmental resilience, to inner transformation and to transformation of the world, to active resistance to practices that harm people and the planet and to building the world we want to see now.
Answers are coming from unexpected places. Young people and those at the margins of society see through the fresh eyes of those who never experienced the ersatz security of corporate capitalism, and many are sharing insights through the arts, activism, digital media, and in other ways.
- A new wave of leaders is moving beyond confronting “bad guys.” To navigate chaotic times, we need each other, and love may turn out to be the most important thing. Sally Kohn tells the stories of organizers of low-wage workers who are putting love at the core of their strategy (page 44).
So don’t let the Apocalypse get you down. Let the radical uncertainty of this moment enlarge your sense of possibility. Yes, there are dangers; there are no guarantees that the next decades will turn out well for people or for the living systems of Mother Earth. But if one way of life is ending, we can build a new one. When the status quo is unstable, we have the best shot at replacing it. Since a system built on greed is dying, let’s create one built on love.