Vision: The 10 Most Hopeful Stories of 2010
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It was a tough year. The economy continued its so-called jobless recovery with Wall Street anticipating another year of record bonuses while most Americans struggle to get work and hold on to their homes. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued, and spilled over into Pakistan and Yemen, and more American soldiers died by suicide than fighting in Afghanistan. And it was a year of big disasters, some of them indicators of the growing climate crisis.
World leaders, under the sway of powerful corporations and banks, have been unable to confront our most pressing challenges, and one crisis follows another.
Nonetheless, events from 2010 also contain the seeds of transformation. None of the following stories is enough on its own to change the momentum. But if we the people build and strengthen social movements, each of these stories points to a piece of the solution.
1. Climate Crisis Response Takes a New Direction. After the failure of Copenhagen, Bolivia hosted a gathering of indigenous people, climate activists, and grassroots leaders from the global South—those left out of the UN-sponsored talks. Their solution to the climate crisis is based on a new recognition of the rights of Mother Earth. Gone are notions of trading the right to pollute (which gives a whole new meaning to the term "toxic assets"). Instead, life has rights, and we can learn ways to live a good life that doesn’t require degrading our home.
The official climate agreement that came out of Cancún was weak and disappointing, although it did represent a continued commitment to work to address the challenge. But the peoples' mobilizations, and the solutions born in Cochabamba, continue to energize thousands.
Meanwhile, Californians voted to uphold their ambitious climate law, despite millions spent by oil companies to rescind the measure in November's election. And cities— Seattle, for one—are moving ahead with their own plans to reduce, and even zero-out, their climate emissions.
2. Wikileaks Lifts the Veil. The release of secret documents by Wikileaks has lifted the veil on U.S. government actions around the world. While the insights themselves don't change anything, they do offer grist for a national dialogue on our role in the world—especially at a time when our federal budget crisis may require scaling back on our hundreds of foreign military bases, our protracted overseas wars, and our budget-busting weapons programs. Likewise, the traumas inflicted on civilian populations and on our own military are spurring fresh thinking. We now have data points for a bracing, reality-based conversation on the future of war—the kind of conversation that makes democracy a living reality.
3. Momentum is Building for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons. The ratification of the START Treaty is an important step in the right direction. And the National Council of Churches, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and others from across the political spectrum have joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in calling for an even more ambitious goal: the end of nuclear weapons.
4. Resilience is the New Watchword. As familiar sources of security erode, people are rebuilding their communities to be green and resilient. Detroit, a city abandoned by industry and many of its former residents, now has over 1,000 community gardens, a six-block-long public market with some 250 independent vendors, and a growing support network among small businesses. Around the country, faith groups and others are forming Common Security Clubs to help members weather the recession and consider more life-sustaining economic models. Communities are becoming Transition Towns as a means to prepare for breakdowns in society that may result from any combination of the triple crises of climate change, an end to cheap fossil fuels, and an economy on the skids.