The coronavirus pandemic has made clear once and for all that the United States is not exceptional—not immune to deadly infectious diseases nor food shortages, lack of clean water, mass poverty, and despair. As national containment measures fall short, thousands of people continue to die each day—disproportionately in communities of color and the poorest regions. As the economy sputters, Big Oil and other corporations siphon billions in stimulus money—yet unemployment has reached nearly 15%.
Of course, we are afflicted with the same virus as most other nations. But the global response to the pandemic has highlighted fundamental differences among nations, some with strong centralized medical care, some with generous social safety nets. Rarely have we been stacked alongside multiple data charts and seen our social policies so consistently failing. South Korea, a wealthy democratic country with similar government to the U.S., curtailed its number of coronavirus cases without resorting to restrictions on civil liberties. Spain, with its strong national government, was able to efficiently centralize its hospital system.
No, the U.S. has not handled this crisis well: not for the economy and not for public health.
And the differences in policies, in ideas, in culture go beyond social safety nets. There are rights of nature in New Zealand. There are cooperative, regional food systems in Japan, and in Brazil, adequate food is a human right. There are open prisons in Finland. There is strong democratic representation in Australia, where voting is mandatory. We can simply look around the globe to see different systems that prioritize people and planet over profits and power.
How did they make such progress? How long did it take to go from nice idea to grassroots organizing to people’s movements demanding social change to government action?
This is what our fall issue will focus on.
Send us your leads and pitches about systems, policies, or cultural norms in other cultures and countries that the U.S. can learn from.
This issue will:
• Highlight some of the best models around the world of just, sustainable, and compassionate systems:
○ What economic models promote income equality and community resilience, accessible and fair health care, food and housing security?
○ What other societal models exist in the world—realistic and sustainable–that might guide us to fix racial disparities, heal past injustices, and restore Indigenous rights?
○ What other systems of criminal justice can we consider to replace punitive sentencing, prison, and detention?
○ What kind of electoral system provides effective representation and a robust democracy, avoiding false choices and deep divisions?
○ Where in the world does environmental stewardship and regenerative ecology show up throughout society?
• Deeply explore how these ideas became real, the history of exemplary systems—the people’s movements and cultural landscapes that brought about those transformative changes. Are there tradeoffs—between government and civil liberties, for example? What must happen to create culture shift, government action, and ultimately social change?
All of the stories we seek will be examples of excellent journalism, analysis, and storytelling: stories that have compelling characters, are well-researched, and demonstrate challenges and resolution. Send your pitches to [email protected] by May 31. After that, you can continue to send them to [email protected]