From the Publisher

A Road Trip to Find the Edge of Change

Fran Korten

Where is the cutting edge of transformational change? That’s the question YES! co-founder Sarah van Gelder is asking as she embarks on a five-month road trip across the United States.

When Sarah proposed this journey, she said she didn’t want to look for answers in the halls of power or at big conferences. Instead she’s going to grassroots America: native reservations, rust belt cities, and small towns across the country. She’ll interview those who lead and participate in social movements. She’ll meet with people resisting the devastation of coal trains, fracking, oil pipelines, and mountaintop removal. She’ll visit community leaders localizing their economies and learn from people transforming the way they live in the face of climate change. And she’ll talk with lots of people to discover how they are coping with the stresses of an unfair economic system. Once she’s back home, she’ll bring her experiences and reflections together in a book.

The trip is part of a renewal process at YES! Next year we will celebrate our 20th anniversary. Over all these years, we have brought to light possibilities for transformation. Now, many of those ideas have taken hold; some have become mainstream — think farmers markets, biking, cooperatives, renewable energy, local economies, and criminal justice reform. But, as Sarah pointed out when she proposed her trip, a lot of the negative trends that spurred the founding of YES! have gotten more pronounced — climate change, an eroding middle class, deepening poverty, and racial injustice.

So Sarah’s on a journey to find where realistic, grounded hope lies now. She’s asking, “Where are the fresh sources of energy and innovation? Is the despair so many experience spurring a different form of activism or shifts to more resilient ways of life?” She notes that “as tensions rise, real answers, based in the lives and aspirations of ordinary Americans, become increasingly important — answers that are up to the challenges of our time and have a shot at spreading and creating the foundation for a new world. These are the innovations that have to be known, the stories that need to be told.”

You can follow her discoveries. Starting in September, she’ll write occasional articles and send back inspiring interviews. You’ll find them on our website and in our “YES! This Week” email. (You can sign up for this free newsletter on our website.) She’ll also post short reflections about what she’s learning, along with occasional videos and photos, at yesmagazine.org/edgeofchange. Follow her on Twitter @sarahvangelder and at #edgeofchange.

All of us at YES! will miss her daily presence at the office. But we look forward to a rich harvest of insights that can guide the stories we bring you as we move into our next 20 years.

More of the Story

Updates and Responses

Make It Right issue

Reparations Funds Should Be Earmarked for Sustainable Community Development

Make It Right, Summer 2015

I appreciate YES! joining the voices calling for reparations for slavery and the subsequent profiting of some Americans with the sanction of the U.S. government.

The economic crisis, the environmental crisis, and the food system crisis together reveal weaknesses and contradictions rooted deeply in the economic and political history of the industrial system that stems from slavery. One serious concern that I have, however, is Rabbi Yanklowitz’s (“The Moral Case for Reparations”) view where he affirms a position advanced by Professor Mary Francis Berry in 2014 calling for a reparations superfund. It is the idea that reparations should be used in any way and for whatever individuals wish. In a consumer economy like ours, that would be shortsighted.

The once promised “40 acres and a mule” spoke to the need and desire of those formerly enslaved to become producers rather than mere consumers. Better than doling out undesignated funds that could easily end up boosting the existing inequitable exploitative system, we should develop reparations funds that are earmarked for sustainable community development. This would mean creating community-owned, cooperative enterprises. These would create new opportunities for people in our communities to produce and expand ownership, as well as retain the profits generated by their labor.

Along these lines, we have begun working to develop the Southern Reparations Loan Fund with a mission to be radically inclusive and non-extractive in its lending practices. Its purpose is to maximize the benefit to the targeted community rather than maximize profits.

Change Starts With Finding Common Ground

Jacqueline Suskin’s piece, “One Poem that Saved a Forest,” helped me feel more secure in my methodology of change. Instead of staying mad at people and demonizing them, find some common ground to start with and grow from there. In too many activist communities, it is considered selling out to “sit at the table” with the so-called enemy. I find this disheartening, counterintuitive to my nature, and counterproductive to my ultimate goal: the Beloved Community.

We Need Public Banks That Benefit Our Communities

I agree with David Berrian (“Debt Is Not the Problem, Money Is”) that the abstraction of money makes it difficult for people to feel connected, and it is too easy to feel the delight of a good sale to consider “the true impact of our purchases.” However, there are plenty of people who interact directly with others in thoughtless and abusive ways, so it is not the money that drives uncaring behavior. Though it does make it easier to be unconscious about it.

It is time for us to be educated about money and to re-create and participate in a new populist, Greenbacker-like movement of the late 1800s. Creating the right kind of currency and system, such as a public bank whose profits are returned to the local community, can help rapidly fund affordable education, basic needs for all, the rapid transition to carbon-lowering energy and transportation systems, and the social services to respond more quickly to the inevitable climate change refugees that are coming our way.

Loosening the grip of the global banking/financing system that has profited so greatly under our current system will take all of our awareness and efforts. There is a place for local private banks and low-interest loans, but not as our sole currency system.

The first step is education. The next step is developing new monetary systems for the health and prosperity of all.

Send your responses to [email protected]. Or mail to 284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.


The Debt Issue

Gloria O’Neill

Raj Patel

How Lentils Started an Underground Food Movement

Raj Patel has worked for the World Bank and the World Trade Organization — and protested against them around the world. He has testified about the causes of the global food crisis to the U.S. House Financial Services Committee and was a food policy adviser to the United Nations. Patel is author of the critically acclaimed book Stuffed and Starved and the 2010 New York Times best seller The Value of Nothing. He is a research professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, Patel is working on a documentary project about the global food system with award-winning director Steve James.

Nathan Schneider

Nathan Schneider

The Brighter Side of Debt

Nathan Schneider grew up near Washington, D.C., and has devoted much of his work as a reporter to challenging the assumptions about economics, power, and religion that are taken for granted there. His first book, God in Proof, explores the politics of debates about God, and his second, Thank You, Anarchy, is an up-close, apocalyptic account of Occupy Wall Street. He and his wife recently moved to Colorado, where some of his ancestors first immigrated more than a century ago.

Mistinguette Smith

Mistinguette Smith

The Confederate Flagpole Reminded Me of 
Homemade Freedom

Mistinguette Smith is the founding director of The Black/Land Project, which gathers stories about black people’s relationship to urban, suburban, and rural land and turns them into tools for black self-determination and organizing. By day, she consults with philanthropic and social sector groups about how to make deeper and more effective social change. By night, she writes essays that appear in both literary and academic publications. A Midwesterner by birth and disposition, she lives with her wife in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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Editorial Staff

Editor at Large: Sarah van Gelder

Editorial Director: Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn

Senior Editor: Doug Pibel

Associate Editor: Shannan Lenke Stoll

Associate Editor: Erin Sagen

Assistant Editor: Yessenia Funes

Reporting Fellow: Marcus Harrison Green

Social Justice Correspondent: Jasmine Aguilera

Editorial Assistants: Tony Manno, Miles Schneiderman

Editorial Intern: Alexa Strabuk

Editors, yesmagazine.org: Christa Hillstrom, James Trimarco

Assistant Web Editor: Liz Pleasant

Web Assistants: Araz Hachadourian, Jennifer Luxton

Multimedia Editor: Stephen Miller

Contributing Editors

Rob “Biko” Baker, Walden Bello, Adrienne Maree Brown, Pamela O’Malley Chang, Mark Engler, Lisa Gale Garrigues, Robert Jensen, Winona LaDuke, Frances Moore Lappé, Annie Leonard, Bill McKibben, Madeline Ostrander, Dean Paton, Madhu Suri Prakash, Nathan Schneider, Vandana Shiva, Jay Walljasper

Positive Futures Network Staff

Executive Director, Publisher: Frances F. Korten

Education Outreach Manager: Jing Fong

Education Outreach Intern: Morgan Wright

Development Manager: Robin Simons

Development Coordinator: Rebecca Nyamidie

Inside YES! Program Manager: Kassia Sing

Finance and Operations Director: Audrey Watson

Office Manager: Clo Copass

IT Manager: Michael Winter

Software Developer: Miles Johnson

Fulfillment Manager: Paula Murphy

Customer Service Manager: Yvonne Rivera

Audience Development Director: Rod Arakaki

Media and Outreach Manager: Susan Gleason

Audience Development Coordinator: Natalie Lubsen

Bookkeeper: Martha Brandon


Chuck Beek, Barbara Bolles, Penny Brewer, Susan Callan, Vanessa Cass, Susan Corning, Liam Cunningham, Carolyn Eden, Martin Englander, Mae Gentry, Kat Gjovik, Katrina Godshalk, Jay Harris, Barry Hoonan, Sharene Kuhrt, Jane Martin, Sarah Pearl, Channie Peters, Bob Ross, Alice Schilling, Robert Shetterly, Barbara Vaile, Lauren Walsh, Connie Walton, Richard Wilson, Sally Wilson

YES! (ISSN 1089-6651) is published quarterly for $24 per year by the Positive Futures Network at 284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-2870. Periodicals postage paid at Seattle, WA, and at additional mailing offices. Postmaster: send address changes to YES! 284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-2870. Subscriptions: $24 per year. Call: 800/937-4451; 206/842-0216 Fax: 206/842-5208 Website: www.yesmagazine.org Email: [email protected]

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