Why Sharing News About Solutions Is a Revolutionary Act
By Frances Moore Lappé / yesmagazine.org
Aug 8, 2013

Scary stories of kidnappings and explosions lead our news feeds, but it's the good news that helps break down the myth of our own powerlessness.

"If it bleeds, it leads." Ever hear that maxim of journalism? If you want readers, go with the scary, gruesome story—that's what gets hearts pumping and grabs attention. But what grabs our attention can also scare the heck out of us and shut us down.

Remember, what we do and say doesn't just influence our friends, but also our friends' friends and our friends' friends' friends.

Scary news might "sell," but we can also feel so bombarded with the negative that our "why bother?" reflex kicks in. Fear stimuli go straight to the brain's amygdala, Harvard Medical School's Srinivasan Pillay explains. But, he adds, "because hope seems to travel in the same dungeons [parts of the brain] as fear, it might be a good soldier to employ if we want to meet fear."

So let's get better at using hope. It's a free energy source.

Hope isn't blind optimism. It's a sense of possibility—delight in the new and joy in creativity that characterizes our species. So let's break the good-news ban and become storytellers about real breakthroughs. (Below, don't miss my top ten go-to's.) I'm convinced that in the process, we will strengthen our capacity to incorporate and act on the bad news as well.

After all, it's only in changing the small stories that we change the big, dangerous story—the myth of our own powerlessness. Remember, what we do and say doesn't just influence our friends, but also our friends' friends and our friends' friends' friends (yes, research shows it goes three layers out).
That's power! Here are some recent items that have made my day.

  1. Renewables ramping up. With news of Keystone and tar sands and coal-crazy China, it's easy to think that renewable energy is going nowhere, but we'd be wrong. Between 2008 and 2012, the U.S. nearly doubled its renewables capacity. And in the first three months of this year, 82 percent of newly installed domestic electricity-generating capacity was renewable. Plus, installed capacity of new solar units during the first quarter of this year is more than double that of same period last year.

    Globally, thirteen countries now get 30 percent or more of their electricity from renewable sources. And Germany—with cloud cover worse than Alaska's—gets 21 percent of its electricity from renewables. In 2010, Germany, which is slightly smaller in size than Montana, produced about half the world's solar energy. That could depress you, or, it could remind us of the vastness of untapped potential. In April, at the first Pathways to 100% Renewables conference in San Francisco, I heard scientists declare that there's absolutely no technical obstacle to our planet's reaching 100 percent renewable energy in a few decades.

    Abetting the process, the cost of renewables is plummeting worldwide—that of electricity from large solar power plants fell by more than half, from $0.31 per kilowatt-hour in 2009 to $0.14 in 2012.
  2. Wind wows. Denmark's wind energy alone provides about 30 percent of the country's electricity, making it the world leader as ranked by the share of a country's electricity that wind power provides. And U.S. wind power? We're second only to China among the world's wind energy producers, with wind power equal to about 10 nuclear power stations or 40 coal-fired power stations.

    Growing up in oil-centric Texas, I would have been the last person to predict my home state's leadership. But in the 1990s eight utility companies brought groups of citizens together to learn and to think through options. By the end of the process, they'd ranked efficiency higher than when they began, and the share of those willing to pay for renewables and conservation increased by more than 60 percent. Apparently, the utility companies listened: If Texas were a country, it would now be the world's sixth ranking wind energy producer.
  3. Cities, states, countries pledge to go clean: Eight countries, 42 cities, and 48 regions have shifted, or are committed to shifting within the next few decades, to 100 percent renewable energy in at least one sector (like electricity, transportation, or heating/cooling). In California, San Francisco, Lancaster, and San José have officially set their goal at 100 percent renewable electricity within the next decade. And if you're thinking, "Oh yeah, that's just California": Greensburg, Kan., set its goal at 100 percent renewable power for all sectors after the town was wiped out by a tornado in 2007.

    Colorado's target is 30 percent renewable electricity by 2020, a standard that's helped spur success—especially when it comes to wind. And Vermont's energy plan is set to get the state to 90 percent renewable energy in all sectors by mid-century.

    And whole countries? Iceland already gets 100 percent of its electricity from renewables—three-quarters from large hydro and 25 percent from geothermal. In Costa Rica, it's about 95 percent—mainly from hydroelectric (which it's working to diversify), along with wind, biomass, and geothermal. Costa Rica's sights are set on becoming the world's first carbon-neutral country in time for its 2021 bicentennial. Absorbing more carbon will speed it along, so Costa Rica's forestry-financing agency is working with landowners to plant 7 million trees on cattle and coffee farms in the next few years.

    Monaco, Norway, New Zealand, and Iceland are also shooting to become the first carbon-neutral country. And Ethiopia unveiled plans to become a middle-income carbon-neutral country by 2025.
  4. Citizens clobber coal. Just since 2005, as part of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, citizens across the country have stopped more than 165 coal plants from opening and successfully pushed for the retirement of more than 100 existing ones. The campaign aims to retire one third of America's remaining 500 coal plants by 2020. And if you're not registering how important this is, consider that coal accounts for more than a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Forests forever. In India, ten million families take part in roughly 100,000 "forest-management groups" responsible for protecting nearby woodlands. Motivation is high, especially for women, because firewood still provides three-fourths of the energy used in cooking. Working collaboratively with the Indian government, these groups cover a fifth of India's forests; and they're likely a reason that India is one of the few countries in the world to enjoy an increase in forest cover since 2005.

And if you're not excited yet, try these two final tales:

Close to home: Four years ago in Magnolia Springs, Ala., the conservative town government passed the toughest land regulation in the south. It's spending a quarter million dollars on a comprehensive plan to restore and protect its charming river from agricultural chemical runoff. "I'm a tree-hugging, liberal—I mean a tree-hugging conservative Republican! Which I know some people may say is an oxymoron," said Mayor Charlie Houser of this small town near Mobile. Brown pelicans are showing up again, says Houser, and he adds: "Cormorants up in the treetops ... Beautiful sight!"

Around the world: Three-fourths of Niger is desert, and news headlines focus on hunger there. But over two decades, poor farmers in the country's south have "regreened" 12.5 million desolate acres. In all, Niger farmers have nurtured the growth of some 200 million trees—discovering that trees and crops are not competitors but are complementary. The trees protect the soil, bringing big crop-yield increases, and they provide fruit, nutritious leaves, fodder, and firewood. Now young people are returning to villages in Niger, and school kids are learning to care for the trees, too.

Are you willing to step up as a solutions-news ban breaker?

Neuroscientists tell us our brains are "plastic," with new neuronal connections being created all the time, forming new "streambeds" in our brains that shape our responses to life. So isn't actively choosing what shapes our brains perhaps the most powerful ways to change ourselves, enabling us to change the world?

Facing unprecedented challenges, we can choose to remain open to possibility and creativity—not mired in despair. Surely, the latter is a luxury that none can afford. We can create and enthusiastically share a solutions story today, every day. It is a revolutionary act.

Here are my top picks to help you "break the ban":

Small Planet Institute
Yes! Magazine
Solutions Journal
Ecologic Development Fund
Handprinter
Sierra Club
ZERI (Zero Emissions Research Initiatives)
Your Olive Branch
World Future Council
OdeWire: News for Intelligent Optimists


Frances Moore Lappé is a contributing editor to YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. This article is adapted from EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want.

3.5 ·
1
Trending Today
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 5,375 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 4,194 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 3,888 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
Those That Did Not Seek Revenge
Dr. Ann Russo · 2,418 views today · Dr. Ann Russo on violence, healing, and transforming justice.
DAPL Opponents Vow to 'Rise' From Ashes of Oceti Sakowin and Keep Fighting
Lauren McCauley · 2,279 views today · 'They cannot extinguish the fire that Standing Rock started,' Dallas Goldtooth declared
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 1,250 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 1,097 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 913 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 828 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 787 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 736 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Compassion, the Antidote
Martin Doblmeier · 682 views today · Thich Nhat Hanh has published nearly 100 books and is one of the best-known teachers of Zen Buddhism in the world today. In the early 1960s his practice of what he termed...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 617 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 597 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 593 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Michael Moore Wants to Help You Find Your Next Anti-Trump Protest
Sarah Ruiz-Grossman · 539 views today · The Resistance Calendar lists upcoming rallies across the country.
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 466 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 402 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
Immigrants For Sale (2015)
33 min · 373 views today · The detention of migrants has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which immigrants are sold to the highest bidder and traded like mere products. The Corrections...
The Most Astounding Fact about the Universe
3 min · 366 views today · This is Neil Degrasse Tyson's response when asked to describe the most astounding fact about the universe. Background music is the cinematic orchestra - To build a home.
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Why Sharing News About Solutions Is a Revolutionary Act