B. Another World Is Possible: A Few Positive Examples

In this Chapter:

Before delving into problems, it is worth considering a few examples of successful solutions. These readings offer some positive visions of the kind of society we might work toward.

Note: These reading assignments are shorter than the ones for later sessions, allowing members of your START group to ease into the process.

Study Questions

  1. What efforts have been effective in making the world better?
  2. Is the world becoming a better place or is it deteriorating?

Overview Articles B

11 pages total

“The Century: A Nation’s-Eye View,” by Eric Foner, The Nation, January 10, 2000, 6 p.

A short overview of the big issues facing us at the beginning of the 21st century.

“The Optimism of Uncertainty,” by Howard Zinn, The Nation (web only), September 20, 2004, 5 p.

We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.

Reading Set B1: Economics and Social Welfare — U.S.

39 pages total

“What Is a Living Wage?” by Jon Gertner, The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, January 15, 2006, 33 p.

The efforts and successes of the living wage movement.

“Fair Trade: for Everyone’s Benefit,” by Lilja Otto, Yes! Magazine, Winter 2006, 1 p.

The fair trade movement has forged direct, stable, democratic trade relations between producers and consumers.

“Pieces of the Puzzle,” by Jill Bamburg, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2002, 5 sp.

How Burlington, Vermont became one of America’s most sustainable communities.

Reading Set B2: Economics and Social Welfare — International

33 pages total

“They Can Walk With Their Heads Up: An Interview with Joao Pedro Stedile, National Board Member, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra,” by Cynthia Peters and Justin Podur, Dollars & Sense, May/June 2002, 10 p.

How Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement has grown.

“Venezuela’s Cooperative Revolution: An economic experiment is the hidden story behind Chávez’s ‘Bolivarian Revolution’,” by Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone, Dollars & Sense, July/August 2006, 14 p.

The unprecedented growth of cooperatives that has reshaped the economic lives of hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans.

“South American cities spearhead development of direct democracy,” by Nick Swift and Guy Kervella, City Mayors report, December 5, 2003, 4 p.

Experiments in three cities demonstrate the value of local, participatory democracy. Vision piece

“When the People Decide,” by Doug Pibel, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2006, 1 p.

Participative budgeting is a growing movement in Brazil.

“Porto Alegre’s Budget Of, By, And For the People,” by David Lewit, Yes! Magazine, Winter 2003, 4 p.

The people of Porto Alegre, Brazil, get to decide how to spend their city’s budget, and the benefits are evident in neighborhoods rich and poor.

Reading Set B3: The Environment

25 pages total

“The Great Turning as Compass and Lens,” by Joanna Macy, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2006, 8 p.

What it means to be alive at a moment of global crisis and possibility: The Great Turning — the transition from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining society — invites us to lift our eyes from the cramped closet of short-term thinking and see the larger historical landscape.

“Mushroom Power,” by Paul Stamets, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2003, 3 p.

Bio-remediation using mushrooms: how fungi can cleanse water and toxic spills.

“High-Tech Goes Green,” by Ted Smith and Chad Raphael, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2003, 7 p.

Extended Producer Responsibility: producers take responsibility for the entire life cycle of products and their associated e-waste including high-tech toxics.

“Summary of Global Response Campaign History, 1990–2005,” by Eddie Camp and Danislava Marinova, Global Response, July 2005, 8 p.

A short summary of the effectiveness of Global Response’s letter writing campaigns to help communities around the world protect the environment and defend the rights of indigenous peoples.

Reading Set B4: Conflict and Justice

37 pages total

“Valencia: Water Wisdom,” by Lucía Iglesias Kuntz, The UNESCO Courier, March 2006, pages 9–10, 3 p.

In Valencia’s vast “huerta”, the heartland of Spain’s orchards, water is an historically strategic element. For centuries a special court has met on every Thursday to settle disputes relating to this key resource.

“I am my Neighbor’s Mirror: A Community Rebuilding After Genocide,” by Laura Shipler Chico, African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams, No Date, 19 p.

Rwanda has reinstated a traditional community justice process to help heal the country following the 1994 genocide.

“Restorative Conferencing,” Centre for Justice & Reconciliation, Prison Fellowship International, 3 p.

A restorative justice system, developed in New Zealand, brings the victim and offender to a face-to-face meeting to discuss the crime and its impact.

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” adopted in 1948 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, 8 p.

In 1948, the United Nations codified acceptable civil behavior, creating a rule of law for human rights.

Browse the short descriptions of these other treaties:

“International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, New York, 1966,” 1 p.

“International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, New York, 1966,” 2 p.

“International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, New York, 1966,” 2 p.

“Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, New York, 1979,” 1 p.

“Convention on the Rights of the Child, New York, 1989,” 2 p.

Reading Set B5: Democracy and the Political Process

27 pages total

“Hope Is in the States,” by Ruth Conniff, The Progressive, March 2006, 5 p.

There is a groundswell of activity in the states.

“Clean Elections Work in Maine,” by Jim Annis and John Brautigam, Hartford Courant, October 24, 2005, 2 p.

What a difference publicly funded elections makes.

“Otpor: the youths who booted Milosevic,” by Christophe Chiclet, The UNESCO Courier, March 2001, 9 p.

It took a generation of 20 year-olds without a manifesto or leader to shake Serbia out of its lethargy. Armed only with slogans and spray paint, they dealt a fatal blow to the dictatorship.

“Turning Scarcity Into Abundance,” by Vandana Shiva, Yes! Magazine, Winter 2004, 8 p.

The solution to scarcity is not more mega-projects, more control by giant corporations, or more globalization. The solution to scarcity is more democracy.

“Limits of Empire,” by James K. Galbraith, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2003, 3 p.

The United States should again be committed to building the core capacities — in education, public health, housing, and transport — that underpin real development.

Additional Resources


Next Reading Set Collection: C. Air, Water, Land, and Food