12 Innovations From the '00s That Could Save Us

With climate disruption, war, and a faltering economy, the
'00s were tough. Still, seeds were sewn for a more green and egalitarian
2010s. And peoples movements offer the power to make real change

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

With climate disruption, war, and a faltering economy, the
'00s were tough. Still, seeds were sewn for a more green and egalitarian
2010s. And peoples movements offer the power to make real change

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

But something else happened during the first decade of the
millennium. People around the world turned away from ways of life and
practices that are endangering our world and worked to make communities,
work places, and technologies green and egalitarian. And peoples
movements challenged the power of corporations, the military, and
finance interests, insisting on putting people and the planet first.
It's this combination of smart, local innovation and people power that
offers hopeful possibilities for the '10s, '20s, and beyond.

  1. People fell in love with local
    There are now more than 5,000 farmers' markets in the U.S.,
    up 13 percent in just one year, many new school vegetable gardens, and
    CSA. People turned their lawns into gardens, and asked grocery stores
    and restaurants to offer local foods.
  2. A
    home-grown U.S. pro-democracy movement
    brought greater integrity to
    the elections process.
    This movement, built on the voting rights
    movement, began after the questionable election of 2000. Through public
    scrutiny, legal challenges, and mobilization of poll watchers, it was
    able to counter election manipulation, voter suppression, black box
    voting irregularities, and to begin restoring voting rights to felons
    who had served their terms.
  3. Happiness
    got redefined
    As people discovered that debt and overconsumption
    cause stress to families, the planet, and each of us, many turned
    instead to friends, family, good works, spirituality, and personal
    growth as the keys to a good life.
  4. Media
    became radically decentralized and inclusive,
    with anyone able to
    report on events and to post video, tweets, photos, and commentary.

    Governments found secrecy much harder to come by. Fact checking became a
    participatory activity.
  5. Prison
    overcrowding, budget shortfalls, and powerful advocacy turned the
    public against draconian prison terms
    and the drug war in favor of
    limited prison time for nonviolent offenses and alternatives like
    treatment and community service.
  6. People
    went local to rebuild the economy.
    Instead of competing to get
    corporations to locate in their communities, they began building
    economies based on local strengths and local needs, striving to be green
    and to offer living wages and dignity to employees. Worker-owned
    are at the leading edge of this movement, especially in
    abandoned rust-belt cities
    . The new focus is on sustainably meeting
    the needs of ordinary people
    , not the greed of Wall Street.
  7. Populist
    resistance grew to corporate power
    and big government.
    movement pushed back against bailed-out
    Wall Street banks
    , the domination of health insurance and Pharma in
    the health
    care debate
    , and the power of big coal and big oil. Right-wing
    think tanks and media tried to morph this populism into an anti-Obama
    movement, so far with limited success. (But if Obama continues to
    capitulate to a corporate agenda, he could be in trouble with populists
    across the political spectrum.)
  8. The stage was set for nuclear abolition:
    A global consensus grew around the need to abolish nuclear
    In the United States, conservatives
    like George Shultz are advocates
    along with progressive leaders.
  9. Indigenous
    people's rights were recognized

    in an official United Nations declaration.
    Indigenous peoples began
    using their new-found clout to protect their ways of life and the
    biosphere, stewarding sources of invaluable cultural and biological
  10. The United States elected an African-American president. While this
    didn't usher in a utopian post-racial society, it did show the power of
    multi-racial organizing. And it set the stage for long over-due remedies
    to racial disparities and segregation. But, as has been painfully
    clear, it does not guarantee progressive policies will come out of the
    White House.
  11. A new guiding philosophy emerged based on respect for all people and
    all life.
    This approach is gaining power after both neoliberalism and
    neoconservatism proved themselves out of touch with the challenges faced
    by humanity - and out of ideas. The Earth
    formally launched in 2000, received endorsements of thousands of
    organizations representing millions of people during the '00s, revealing
    the potential for a new worldview to take hold based in environmental
    sustainability and social justice.
  12. A
    "Survival" Movement

    swept the world;
    millions took action to confront the climate crisis,
    making changes at home and at work, greening cities, resisting coal and
    deforestation. Look to this movement to grow rapidly, post-Copenhagen.

We may look back on the '00s as the time when we
began to turn in a new direction - one that can sustain us and the
planet, powered by the
aspirations and power of ordinary people.

But that shift is far from inevitable. We could get
stuck in denial
and fear. Instead of reaching for
powerful new solutions, we could spin our wheels trying to shore up a
failing status quo or exhaust our energy scapegoating one another. The
approaches that were seeded in the '00s could still be swept aside by
the entrenched forces of power and money.

But we could also build the new innovations and
peoples movements
that can change our course before climate disruption, social breakdown,
and war
bankrupt us. That will be the key challenge for the 2010s.

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This article was written for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.