What’s No Longer Impossible?

With new ideas about sustainability and responsibility rapidly moving to the forefront of the discussion, things that once seemed implausible are quickly becoming a reality. Former YES! editorial assistant Sarah Kuck, now an editor with Worldchanging, spoke with visitors to the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival.





So, what's possible now that you once thought impossible?

Annie Leonard at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival
Annie Leonard at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff
One of the things that I have learned from the response to The Story of Stuff is — in a way we took a temperature of the world — and I found out that there are thousands, and thousands and thousands, and thousands of us who share a growing disease about the way our society is going. I sort of thought I was a little on the fringe, but what I’m realizing is that there are masses of us, which is so exciting to me. The diversity of responses we have gotten is very interesting...if we can reach a Midwestern fourth grader, a republican, SUV-driving, Texas housewife, and an Oxford economics professor, then that’s not a niche, that’s not like a little special interest group, that’s our community. So I’m very inspired by how ready people are for this conversation. I worked for environmental groups from 20 years and I think sometimes environmental groups baby talk to people. They talk about easy stuff, you know, changing your light bulbs, which is very important but not enough. I always tell people, change your light bulbs then change your paradigm. But I think people are ready for the harder discussion.

YES Story button The Story of Stuff :: Another Way

See The Story of Stuff, read our review of the film, and explore our selected YES! articles that address the complex issues that relate to our materials economy and how we can choose to live differently.
YES! Online :: The Story of Stuff



Frances Moore Lappé at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

Frances Moore Lappé, founder of the Small Planet Institute
One of the things that is so dramatic to me is the shift in my perception of the cooperative movement. From the days in San Francisco in the 1970s in the food co-ops where all the hippies got their grain and whole foods, to (seeing) places like the Mondragon Cooperative in Spain and the network of cooperatives across Northern Italy, and learning that there are more people in the world who are members of cooperatives than who own shares of publicly traded companies. Just that shift of really seeing cooperatives becoming an incredibly powerful tool of democratic social empowerment….In the late ‘80s I sat down with some dairy farmers in Western Wisconsin. There was a real break-down; In the 1980s farmers were going out of business even worse that today. And they wanted to organize a dairy cooperative. And I though, oh how sweet, this is really going to help some farmers in Western Wisconsin. And now, of course, this is Organic Valley, with more than 1,200 farms and $400 million in sales and still democratically run.

YES Story button Climate Change, Courage & Celebration

Commentary by Frances Moore Lappé: “We can harvest the abundance that is our home if we have the courage to break away from the dominant culture of waste and destruction and to walk with our fear of the unknown and of being different.”
YES! Magazine :: issue 44, Winter 2008 :: Liberate Your Space



Madeline Ostrander at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

Madeline Ostrander, Associate Editor of YES! Magazine
The change in consciousness about climate change. Just within a couple of years there has been a major tipping point in the media coverage of climate change — part of that had to do with Al Gore and part of it had to do with Hurricane Katrina. Also, during the Live Earth concerts, I realized the trendiness of being green — almost a faddishness, which is dangerous because of green washing, but on a deeper level it’s a response from people who really want a change.



Joel Mog at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

Joel Mog, Social Worker
Something that came to mind is that people can stop driving. They had the (Interstate) 5 construction last summer (in Seattle), and it was very well published that it was coming. And everybody just assumed that there was going to be terrible traffic jams, it came and the traffic was fantastic (because) a large percentage of people actually stopped driving to work. They found other ways to get there – carpooling, taking the train, and it just happened instantly, it was amazing. I didn’t think that kind of change could happen that quickly. I thought that once that it becomes more inconvenient or expensive to drive it’s going to be a slow and gradual process over many, many years, but obviously people are very ready and flexible to make changes when it works for them. I hope people will feel that motivation again.



Richard Conlin at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

Richard Conlin, Council President of the City of Seattle and a founding board member of YES!
I think the possible that I once thought impossible is the kind of change where people have incorporated sustainability—long term cultural, economic, environmental and social health and vitality—into their way of thinking. When we started working on sustainability 15 years ago, nobody wanted to talk about it. I was advised ‘don’t even tell people about that word because nobody understands what it means.’ And now to find it is getting into common language, and people are thinking about it and imagining it into the way we should evaluate things.

YES Story button Seattle Adopts Zero-Waste Policy

Signs of Life :: The Seattle City Council has committed the city to a zero-waste policy—and one small neighborhood's activism helped spur the change.
YES! Magazine :: issue 44, Winter 2008 :: Liberate Your Space



Jon Ramer at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

Jon Ramer, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Interra Project
The notion that survival is a collective act and therefore we need to find new ways of aligning all of our efforts. So, new ways of thinking about sharing…We really are looking for new models of giving to each other and sharing with each other. Open source is an example of that. People put things forward with the best interest of everybody. Taking care of the commons together, looking for new ways to make it possible for us – the only way we are going to accomplish things we’ve never done before is if we do things we’ve never done before. So we are all realizing that we need to get out of our comfort zone. Not pseudo community, but a really community — where we really listen and learn from each other, understand what we need, to really create a more sustainable way of living, but also a more peaceful, compassionate, loving way… We are all realizing that as an individual, we are just a drop; Together we are an ocean. It’s that hope that we see the realization of more levels of sharing and caring, creating a loving economy.



Melissa Young at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

Melissa Young, co-founder of Moving Images Video Project
New ideas about farming don’t mean going back to the old ways, but using new and innovative ways of farming, raising animals and extending the growing season.

YES Story button Argentina, Turning Around

See our Review and Trailer for Melissa Young's latest film: Argentina, Turning Around, an intimate view of the new models of work, politics and community development that are now underway, as people re-invent their society to offer a better life for all.
YES! Online :: Films



JP Kemmick at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

JP Kemmick, AmeriCorp — Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department for community garden issues and member of the Cascade Climate Network
To have a shit load of fun while kicking ass in the climate change movement. I used to do this stuff and it was so tiring and I was burning out at least twice every campaign. I think the thing that is remarkable is how cool youth are and how much fun we can have while doing amazing things. I think if you are going to actually solve the entire thing, it’s about that — that sense of community and finding other people who are going to have a ton of fun and are going to be amazing individuals. To a degree it’s that there is a movement and that it’s full of really, really cool fun people and that we are going to make it happen.



Peter Greenberg, President of Energy Wise Lighting, Inc.
I don’t think I ever thought anything was impossible.
SK: Where has that philosophy gotten you?
PG: We’ll probably do $5 million this year in energy efficient lighting, saving people $2 or $3 million (on their energy bills).



John deGraaf at the YES! Speaker's Corner at the Seattle Green Festival

John deGraaf, national coordinator of Take Back Your Time Day
I think it’s possible now that we can begin to turn around the last 30 some years of anti-environmental, anti-social justice, anti-quality of life policy that has been predominant in this country since the so-called conservative revolution. Since we had the idea that the answer to every problem is to cut taxes for the rich and deregulate. I think the result of that, and what I talk about a lot, is the comparison between the United States in terms of health and life satisfaction and all kinds of aspects of quality of life and Europe, (which) makes it clear that we (here in the U.S.) have declined precipitously in the last generation of this kind of right wing policy. And what I think is possible is that it’s coming to an end. That the Bush disaster has been enough of a disaster that Americans are starting to see that we need to go in another direction. I was first hopeful in the 2006 elections, now I’m hopeful that we’ll have a new president and a new congress that will move us in the direction of a policy that says we are all in this together instead of you are on your own.

SK: So what does this ‘all in this together’ policy look like?
JdG: We’re going to start out by giving kids a chance in life by giving their parents some sort of paid leave to take care of them when they are born, and it begins there. We’re going to begin to have universal health care for people, we’re going to begin to say, hey we need a nation vacation law in this country so that people have some vacation time like every other country has, we need to have people getting paid sick leave when they are sick, we need to have policies that reduce the gap between the rich and the poor instead of making that wider and wider all the time. We need to promote strong communities and we need strong policies that ensure that we are not the leading polluter in the world, and leading contributor of greenhouse gases and all the other things that we do. I think that we can do that. I don’t mean that that’s going to happen over night. I don’t think so, it took us 30 years to get in the mess we are in and it may take us that long to get out of it, but I think that we are headed in the right direction. We are facing some big challenges… but maybe we are ready to take our heads out of the sand and say hey there is a role for public policy, there is a role for all of us. We have got to get beyond this attitude that it’s all about me, it’s all about how much money I can make, my right to get rich, that that’s what life’s all about and that’s what our economics ought to be about. Our economic really needs to be about fairness, a healthy life, a happy life, a just life and a sustainable life.

YES Story button Take Back Your Time Day

John deGraaf on the need to address the time poverty in our daily lives.
YES! Magazine :: issue 27, Fall 2003 :: Government of the People Shall Not Perish



Photo of Sarah Kuck

Sarah Kuck was an editorial assistant for YES! from Fall 2006 to Spring 2007. She is the co-founder and editor of , an e-zine dedicated to uncovering environmental and social justice news in the Seattle area. She has recently become an editor with . A nature lover, traveler and yogini, Sarah loves anything that helps her focus on the present and enjoy the world around her.

This article first appeared on , April 14, 2008, and is reposted with their kind permission.

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