Sarah Ruth van Gelder, YES! magazine
Monday, 28 Jun 1999
This is the beginning of summer, but there’s a steady light rain outside. Except that it got light before 5 a.m. and won’t get completely dark until 10:30 p.m., and that flowers are in full bloom, it could be the middle of winter. I had to wear rain pants when I biked to work today, but the cool rain felt good on my face as I rode.
I’ve been writing a preview of our upcoming issue on global climate change, which we are tentatively calling Fire and Ice. It’s not hard to see how some part of the issue will come together — the part that deals with the possible devastation of agriculture, the spreading of disease, the destruction of critical habitat and wildlife, and wild card possibilities that could arise as a result of major changes in the ice caps, ocean currents, rain forest coverage, sea levels, and so on.
The part that is more difficult is at the very foundation of our purpose as an organization. After reading some coverage of climate change I find myself in despair and feeling incapacitated. We launched YES! in order to encourage, support, and empower people to get involved in creating a joyful and life-sustaining society for themselves and all life, present and future. While we won’t pull any punches on just how devastating climate change could be, we want people to read the magazine and feel hopeful and powerful about making a difference.
We humans do have the ingenuity, gumption, and caring to take responsibility for our impacts on the planet. The challenge has probably never been greater. Previous peoples have in some cases caused localized environmental devastation and in some cases learned to live in balance with their surroundings. No previous civilization has had the opportunity to destroy living systems planetwide. So we have the challenge to take our capacity to live sustainably to a global scale. We have to act with imperfect knowledge, and across borders and interest groups. We also have to work during a time of impoverished politics, when leaders in the U.S. and many other countries are far too well attuned to the needs of “money” and far too removed from the needs of people and the planet. Nonetheless, we have to act and are capable of acting.
With the help of Earth Day 2000 and others working on climate change and clean energy, we will gather stories of the extraordinary work being done in cities, businesses, communities, and households to reduce climate impacts. We’ll also have extensive resources and ideas for actions that can be taken at all levels. We know that reaching the Kyoto accord levels is very doable — it’s a first step, but a terribly important one. And we don’t have much time.