Counterbalancing my frustration with watching the citizens of this country slide into a lethargy where only sports and enslaving consumerism seem to matter, I read a magazine article the other day that has left me with a persistent ray of hope for the future.
Earlier this spring, as I was battling boredom and house repairs, I succumbed to an ad for a (new-to-me) magazine called Ode. Ode describes itself as being aimed at "intelligent optimists." While I often find myself being pessimistic, I'd much rather find ways and reasons to see the glass as half full, so I was ripe for their advertising copy.
The first 2 issues have come, and I'm really enjoying this magazine. One article in the May 2007 issue particularly captured my attention. It was by Paul Hawken and was titled "The Instinct to Save the Planet." In it, Hawken describes a worldwide, grassroots movement that he's become aware of which consists of small groups of people banding together to try to heal "...the effects of political corruption, economic disease and ecological degradation." He notes that while this movement is huge, it is amorphous and has no name, no overarching structure, and no underlying "-ism."
A metaphor he uses that seems particularly apt is to see these small groups of people as humanity's immune response to the planet's "...life-threatening disease, marked by massive ecological degradation and rapid climate change."
Hawken has launched an open source network, www.wiserearth.org, to help connect the groups that make up this movement throughout the world. He is also launching a "sister" databank of responsible companies, www.wiserbusiness.org, to encourage corporate social responsibility and to help people find socially responsible businesses within their own communities. That second site seems to still be under construction, but I'm excited about its potential. A third site is planned, based on the governmental sector, to be titled WiserGovernment.
This same issue of Ode had another article, "The Power of Many" by Marco Visscher, that crystallized for me some concepts about wikis and the current "bottom-up" participatory movements, which the internet is especially allowing and mediating these days. Our son, Qkslvrwolf, has been trying to communicate the value of wikis and open source, participatory computer culture to us for quite some time now. This article finally helped me understand why he's been so optimistic.
As has so often been noted, change doesn't occur when people feel content and happy, but when they feel threatened and at risk. These two articles (and, indeed, this magazine in general) have given me a sliver of light in times that have seemed increasingly dark to me. It's wonderful to have specific legs under my vague feelings of hope that things just have to get better.