After 20 Years Reporting on Solutions, I’m Going on a Journey to Find Where Hope Lies Now

My name is Sarah van Gelder. I’m co-founder of YES! Magazine.

Beginning in August 2015, I’m taking a road trip with a set of questions that have been building in my mind until I can no longer ignore them. Questions about the climate crisis: Is there still time before irreversible changes kick in? Questions about racial divides: How can we finally take on a legacy that continues to traumatize people, especially people of color? And questions about the economy: Is a middle class way of life a thing of the past as wealth and power concentrates in the hands of the 1 percent, or might there be a better, more localized way to organize our economy? In other words, is there still hope?

I leave on my journey from Seattle in the midst of a summer of record high temperatures, with mountains naked of snow and forest fires that color the skies. A drought along much of the West Coast is drying and heating the streams and rivers that support salmon runs and farmlands. Even cities in the normally rain-soaked Northwest may run short of water. Meanwhile, Seattle is getting so expensive that poor and middle class people are leaving for the outer suburbs. And during a count last January, volunteers found more than 3,500 people sleeping outside.

I am leaving on this trip in search of authentic hope. I believe that there is enormous intelligence, creativity, and constructive energy at the grassroots, and I want to find the responses that are gaining power and momentum.

After nearly 20 years editing YES!, I am proud of the solution-oriented stories we’ve lifted up and the ideas we’ve brought to light. This journey will build on that work, but it will be an open inquiry. I am leaving home, alone, not knowing what answers I will find. What I do find, I’ll blog about here, I’ll write about at yesmagazine.org, and I’ll bring to the editing of future issues of YES! Magazine. At the end of the road, I plan to pull together my stories into a book. More on that later.

This is an evolving journey, and I invite you to share your ideas for places I should visit, people I should talk with, events I should attend and topics I should tackle. My plan is to head east from Seattle through the plains and into the Midwest. Then, as the weather gets cold, I’ll head south, for Appalachia and the deep south before turning west for a trip through the border region. My focus will be on the margin—the rust belt cities, Native reservations, sustainable farms, and community dialogues where deep change is happening.

Where do you see powerful, grassroots change? Tweet your ideas and tips to #EdgeOfChange or leave a comment below.

24 thoughts on “After 20 Years Reporting on Solutions, I’m Going on a Journey to Find Where Hope Lies Now

  1. In central WA, meet with advocates to remove the lower Snake River dams for salmon, and talk with Audubon folks about wind machines and birds and bats. Best designs for them, and wind vs solar, perhaps. In VA stop by Ferrum College (in Ferrum, VA which is south of Roanoke) to visit the http://www.blueridgeinstitute.org/ which is rich with heritage and on the Crooked Road. Enjoy!

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  2. I wish I could say we live in a town working to save this beautiful country. I myself hope for a better understanding of saving the world one idea at a time. I do have solar energy and am aware of what I need as apposed to what I just want. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Please consider coming to Cincinnati, Ohio – there’s alternative economic energy developing here with a citizens’ group: Economics of Compassion Initiative. Sept. 24 is a community conversation: “The Long, Hard Road to Neighborliness” led by theologian Walter Brueggemann and community developer Peter Block. And November 17-18 is a Neighborhood Economics conference focused on “accelerating capital into neighborhoods of need”.

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    1. Wow, that sounds like it’s just what I’m looking for. I’ll check out whether the dates work, but even if I can’t be there then, I’d love to visit and learn more.

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  4. Sarah – Some people you may want to visit to learn about Appalachia. Jeannie Kirkhope, coordinator for Catholic Committee of Appalachia at the Catholic Worker in Spencer, WV Information about the coal industry and poverty. Fr. John Rausch, also associated with CCA, lives in Stanton, KY. Knows about the economy in Appalachia and Native American culture in the area particularly Cherokee Nation. John McCutcheon, musician, now lives in Tucker, GA. Knows about Appalachian music, storytelling,labor movement. He tours a lot and may run into him in other parts of the country. Marie Cirillo, community organizer in Appalachia for the past 50 years. Has tried many different economic development projects.
    She is retired (so she says) and lives in Clearfork Valley in Clairfield, TN. Berea College in Berea, KY has educated many of the poor and black population in Appalachia. Highland Education Center in New Market, TN has trained many of the civil rights and social justice workers in the South for the past 60 – 70 yeqrs. Good luck on your trip.
    Peace
    Jim Ullrich

    V

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If you come to Baltimore, I’d be happy to connect you with some folks and/or show you around. There’s so much going on here (besides what the national media has reported). Also – you might want to stop by Rolling Ridge Study Retreat Center located near Charles Town, WV. A long-established intentional community that holds weekend retreats on a range of earth-centric, soul-craft topics, they’re now offering Permaculture courses as well. http://www.rollingridge.net Happy travels! I expect you’ll find a lot of inspiring people and places.

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  6. Gunalcheesh Sarah! I don’t know if I’ve read your writing before this blog. Other than and issue intro and the interview of the activist from the Northeast (forgive me for not recalling his name). You are a gifted writer. You are a wise soul. You are an ambassador of Peace because you are dedicated to Justice, Truth and Equality. I’m honored to call you friend.

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  7. I am sensing a real mood of change here in America, whether it be in the political arena, Bernie Sanders, in the debt crises ,as in professor Robins debit strike of 2016. I have also been listening to Chis Hedges and his discussion on the inequality of the America populous and the super rich. Bernie weighs in heavily on this issue as well. Chris speaks of revolution which scares me to no end, because I am not sure any revolution has changed much in the human condition in the past. What I am sure of , is American needs to more forward and leave bad ideas on the side of the road and take on a new course where people matter and the environment is King. To quote a world class luminary, Oprah Winfrey ” What I know for sure ”

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

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  8. A stop off on the journey of hope might include Green island http://www.rudemacedon.ca/greenisland.html – also accessible to those unable to take cross country journeys for whatever reason. We have lots of books and tv shows and films about future dystopias – Green Island is more like the future we are trying to create, a place we’ like to be or go to, if we can get together and defeat the capitalist berserkers who are very clearly trying to destroy everything good for us in the world.

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  9. Sarah

    A friend alerted us to what you are doing. Cheers to you!

    This friend thought you might like to visit our group in Shenandoah Valley, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Fifteen years ago we started a group called the Voluntary Gas Tax. For that decade and a half we’ve been charging ourselves 50 cents a gallon for the gasoline we consume, under the conviction that what we pay at the pump is not nearly adequate for all the costs of pollution, global warming, wars to keep “our” oil supplies coming and so forth. We use the money to promote energy alternatives locally and globally. Our latest project gives $5,000 to a local thrift store complex as seed money for a large solar panel array on their building.

    We believe Congress should enact a carbon tax and dividend kind of legislation where the extra tax on carbon would be used to fund alternative energy projects. That in essence is what we’ve been doing ourselves since year 2000.

    Come see us!

    Earl Martin
    voluntarygastax.org

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I would be honored to host you for a stay at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (www.dancingrabbit.org) in northern Missouri. Our Executive Director, Ma’ikwe Ludwig just set out on her fall speaking tour “Sustainable is Possible: Creating Low Carbon, High Quality Lives… Together”. Basically we’ve stopped waiting for other people (or politicians) to figure out what needs to be done, and are working on figuring it out for ourselves. We are doing this in the spirit of a demonstration project, sharing our experiences, failures, and successes as transparently as possible, hoping to inspire others to replicate our efforts. There are so many “little things” people can do where they are, to make a big difference. We’re finding that climate change is such a mind-boggling big thing to try to encompass…especially emotionally…but that the necessary shifts in perspective, behavior, and habit is deceptively simple.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Sarah, what a fascinating idea. I wish you well on your journey, and I am sure we will all be the better for it. Just as an fyi, if you should need support or sisterhood on your journey, you might check out http://www.rvingwomen.org. It is the website of a national organization of thousands of women who are also on the road a good share of the time. It has a national office, national annual conference, multiple local chapters across the country who are the source of good welcomes and great local information, and publishes an informative magazine 6 times a year. Travel safe and enjoy the journey. Best, K.D. McCleave

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Sarah-May your travels lead you down many unexplored paths to discover the joyous and uplifting hope which often goes unseen.
    On your return to the Pacific Northwest, we would love to host you at Our Table Cooperative in Sherwood, Oregon. As you covered our multi-stakeholder co-op earlier this year, it would mean a great deal to us to show you what’s happening on the ground here. http://www.ourtable.us
    Warm wishes,
    Gianna

    Liked by 1 person

  13. If you come to Texas (lHouston) I am 65 miles outside the city and in the in the country. Yes, we have a farm co-op, sustainable living home, and Houston has so many new projects happening. Come visit – I have plenty of space for you to stay in or out.

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