Sarah van Gelder

I Was Wrong About the Rural-Urban Divide

I thought I knew something about Wisconsin politics. I assumed the state was neatly divided between blue cities, like Madison and Milwaukee, and solidly red rural areas that twice elected Governor Scott Walker, one of the nation’s most right-wing governors, and went for Donald Trump in 2016.

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Americans Are Going to Jail Because They Can’t Pay a Fine

The United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world, climbing from 600,000 to over 2 million in just a few decades. We also have the highest percentage of our population behind bars of any country. The people most likely to languish behind bars are Black, Latino, Native American, and poor. It’s a legacy rooted in Jim Crow-era policies that continues in the thinly veiled racism of the war on drugs, as lawyer Michelle Alexander points out in her book The New Jim Crow.

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Big Mobilizations Like the Women's March Are Important, but Movements Need Local Organization Too

Last year at this time, a giant women’s march was in the planning stages. It turned out to be among the largest in U.S. history, according to the Washington Post. Four to 5 million people turned out in over 650 marches across the U.S. on Jan. 21, 2017, ranging from 200 in Abilene, Texas, to five who bravely marched in their hospital cancer ward, to between half a million and a million each in Washington D.C., Los Angeles and New York. In spite of Trump administration sputtering, the D.C. women’s march alone dwarfed the size of the official inauguration.

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Feeling Burned Out? When We Gather, We Get Energized

If it feels like you and the people you know have no say over what happens in Washington, D.C., that’s not an illusion. Research shows that ordinary people have close to zero influence on policymaking at the federal level while wealthy individuals and business-controlled interest groups hold substantial sway, according to an analysis published in Perspectives on Politics.

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How We Can Reimagine and Reinvent Our Society in the Coming Year

I’ve been writing a year-end column for YES! for years. Previously, my aim was to find the strands of hope from the past year that can be woven into new possibilities in the next year.

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Americans Are Stressed About the Future - Here’s Why That’s Promising

Americans are really stressed out, according to a new poll by the American Psychological Association. That’s not news, but what’s surprising is that we are slightly more stressed out by the future of our country (63 percent) than by the usual stressors—money (62 percent) and work (61 percent). In fact, well over half of all Americans, 59 percent, believe this is “the lowest point in our nation’s history.”

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90 Companies Helped Cause the Climate Crisis - They Should Pay for It

Pacific Northwest forests are on fire. Several blazes are out of control, threatening rural towns, jumping rivers and highways, and covering Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and other cities in smoke and falling ash. Temperatures this  summer are an average of 3.6 degrees higher than the last half of the 20th century, according to the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group analysis published in The Seattle Times.

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The Urban Common Spaces That Show Us We Belong to Something Larger

An American friend living in Germany told me a story about when she first arrived. She and her German boyfriend were out walking when she heard a noise that got louder as they approached the town’s main square. Puzzled, she asked her partner about the unfamiliar sound.

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The Urban Common Spaces That Show Us We Belong to Something Larger

An American friend living in Germany told me a story about when she first arrived. She and her German boyfriend were out walking when she heard a noise that got louder as they approached the town’s main square. Puzzled, she asked her partner about the unfamiliar sound.

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Why Small-Scale Farming Is Our Best Hope for Restoring Rural America

Boarded-up business districts. Abandoned warehouses. Barns and homes covered by tarps slowly collapsing into the earth. It was startling how often this scene repeated as I drove through the rural areas of the Midwest, South and West on the road trip that resulted in the book The Revolution Where You Live.

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After Trump’s Victory, Stand With Your Community

There will be much to unpack about what happened in this election and the implications of a Trump presidency. And there are lots of reasons to grieve about the things we hold dear.

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Which Candidate Could Rally the Nation Behind Policies That Would Have Real Impact on the Climate Crisis?

The burning of Fort McMurray in the Canadian province of Alberta is a terrifying glimpse of what a climate crisis looks like. While scientists are cautious about attributing any one event to global warming, the months without rain followed by unusually high temperatures are exactly the sort of conditions associated with a warming planet—and they set the conditions for big fires.

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The Radical Work of Healing: Fania and Angela Davis on a New Kind of Civil Rights Activism

Angela Davis and her sister Fania Davis were working for social justice before many of today’s activists were born. From their childhood in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, where their friends were victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, to their association with the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party, to their work countering the prison-industrial complex, their lives have centered on lifting up the rights of African Americans.

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In North Dakota’s Booming Oil Patch, One Tribe Beat Back Fracking

Drive the long, straight roads of north-central North Dakota, and you pass lake after lake amid hayfields and forests. Migratory birds, attracted by the abundance of water and grain, pause here. Farmers, boaters, and fishermen orient their lives around the pure water.

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What Our Breasts Are Telling Us

When Florence Williams was breastfeeding her infant daughter a decade ago, she started thinking more about the mechanics of her body. A longtime science and environmental journalist, Williams began to delve into the purpose and function of women’s breasts and to examine the chemicals that were reportedly found in breast milk. Her investigation would span years and would lead her to a dramatic step: testing her own breast milk and, later, having both herself and her young daughter evaluated for chemicals in their bodies.

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A Look Into the Future at How TPP Could Create Environmental Nightmares

The air was hazy from distant wildfires on August 29 when a gift arrived on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeast Montana. Carvers from the Lummi Tribe in Washington state brought a totem pole as a sign of support for those fighting the Otter Creek project, a proposed strip mine and rail spur on the Northern Cheyenne Tribe’s traditional lands. 

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Building a Post-Oil Way of Life: Why Montana’s Fossil-Fuel Resistance Gives Me Hope

I started on the Northwest part of this roadtrip to find the places where there is resistance to fossil fuel expansion, and I have found them. But I also found that many of the same people are not only rejecting a paradigm built on exploitation and domination, they are working to build a new post-industrial, post-oil way of life. This is not a left-right issue; it’s happening in college towns, on ranches, Native reservations, and in small towns.

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How We Lost Track of Real Happiness -- and Where to Find It Now

The following is an excerpt from Sustainable Happiness: Live Simply, Live Well, Make a Difference, edited by Sarah van Gelder and the staff of YES! Magazine (Berrett-Koehler, 2014).

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War Is Not the Only Option: 6 Alternatives to Military Strikes on Syria

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's approval of military force in Syria makes military strikes against that country more likely. But key questions remain unanswered. Will military strikes help ordinary Syrians or harm them? Will more violence deter the use of chemical weapons and other war crimes in Syria and elsewhere, or exacerbate the problem? Have all other possibilities been exhausted, or are there peaceful solutions that haven't been tried?

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10 Ways to Support the Occupy Movement

 The #OccupyWallStreet movement continues to spread with more than 1,500 sites. More and more people are speaking up for a society that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.

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6 Things You Can Do About the BP Gulf Disaster

BP has failed repeatedly to stop the gushing oil disaster in the Gulf. It's trying again—using a technique that risks making matters worse—and saying that there may be no repair until August, when it finishes drilling relief wells.

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12 Innovations That Could Save Us

In my last column, I listed nine crises of the ‘00s.

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8 Ways to Join the Local Food Movement

1. From Lawn to Lunch

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