Dispersions of power, transparency, and mutual accountability.

To save the democracy we thought we had we must take democracy to where it’s never been. (Photo: Small Planet Institute)

Celebrating the inauguration of a new president and an end to years of attacks on democracy is a perfect moment to probe together: What do we mean by democracy in the first place?

Here’s where I start.

Beyond our physical essentials, to thrive every human needs to experience three states of being:

First, we need to feel personal agency — to know that our voices count. Philosopher Eric Fromm labeled it as our simple need to “make a dent.” Yes, we like to make things happen!

Second, we need meaning — a sense of purpose beyond our own survival.


Despite lack of federal leadership and under-appreciated by most of us, key states and cities are not only getting it, they’re getting going — plowing ahead with solutions to the climate crisis grounded in social equity.

People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo is working to advance strong neighborhoods with quality & affordable housing, local hiring opportunities, and economic & environmental justice. (Photo courtesy of PUSH Buffalo)

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Covid19 shouts out a profound lesson: America can tackle this pandemic as well as meet our vastly bigger climate threat only as we move together toward solutions.

Seem right?

Obviously so. But solidarity for effective action demands we first take to heart that those most harmed by the virus — poor Americans, especially those of color —…

If we believe something is essential — as in fixing our broken democracy and confronting the climate crisis — we’ve shown over and over throughout our long history that we can indeed do whatever it takes.

“Despair is humanity’s worst enemy.” Now, that’s a declaration I make often, which might imply that I’ve conquered it. But, having spent recent weeks with eyes locked on climate-catastrophe reports, this morning despair started closing in on me.

Whoa, I thought to myself… “Your twitter ID is ‘hope monger.’ You’d better get a grip.”

So, okay…how do we disarm this powerful enemy?

Well, here’s…

State Rep. Chloe Maxmin and allies celebrate the Maine AFL-CIO signing onto the Green New Deal in April of 2019. (Photo: Maxmin’s Twitter)

How often I hear that in “polarized” America rural voters will reject a green agenda out of hand. For them, green means liberal, tree-hugging snobs, unconcerned about the struggles of real working people.

But last week that frame busted for me when I had a chance to speak with Chloe Maxmin, a 27 year-old Maine legislator.

Never heard of Chloe Maxmin?

Well, keep reading, and maybe you’ll agree with me that the story she and colleagues are writing bring many surprises and lessons worth spreading.

Maxmin grew up on her parents’ farm in Nobleboro, a Maine town of about 1,600…

Our government’s and corporate media’s failure to capture the true extent of unemployment creates a distorted narrative about work that feeds bewilderment and self-recrimination.

by Frances Moore Lappé, Bruce T. Boccardy

Striking United Auto Workers Union (UAW) members and supporters picket the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, Sept. 25, 2019, in Detroit. (Jim West/ZUMA Wire)

Striking United Auto Workers Union (UAW) members and supporters picket the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, Sept. 25, 2019, in Detroit. (Photo: Jim West/ZUMA Wire)

Though a recent poll suggests the majority of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s “overall performance,” they support his “handling of the economy” more than other issues surveyed.

“The prosperity cycle we have entered into is continuing, it is strong,” White House National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow celebrated last April. “This is the new Trump economy,” and “I’ll tell you it’s working.”


But wait. Do the numbers…

Across America, local governments are leading the way with some of the most progressive transitions in the nation.

Co-written with Zachary Field

Green cities powered only by renewable energy sources — save money, their health, and our planet. (Photo: Eviart / Shutterstock.com)

More than one in five Americans — that’s over 70 million of us — now live in a place committed to 100 percent carbon-neutral electricity — including 131 towns and cities, seven states and Puerto Rico.

With a Republican-controlled Senate and White House making federal action on climate change look less likely by the day, many hope that states and cities can help pick up the slack.

And such hope is not in vain.

The seven states already…

Let’s drop the false narrative of “unaffordability.”

Co-written with Zachary Field.

Once seeing the Green New Deal not as a choice but an investment in life itself, funding streams appear that were before invisible — many wielding the power to make our economy fairer, too. (Photo: @skenigsberg/Twitter)

Despite ridicule by Republican leaders, calls for a Green New Deal resonate with 80 percent of Americans. Building on the vision laid out by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Ed Markey, now Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have weighed in with their versions.

Americans love the idea of taking on the climate crisis, but three-fourths of us also worry about paying the bill. So, we started looking for answers and have some heartening news to share. But first, a stark reality.

Doing little or nothing could cost hundreds of billions…

Where are the calls to stop the massive illegal transfer of U.S. weapons fueling the very violence that drives innocent people to leave their homes?

Photo by Mitch Lensink on Unsplash

Each month tens of thousands of migrants cross our southern border. They’re “seeking a better life”…right? Isn’t that why families leave loved ones to trek vast distances facing untold dangers?

Certainly, it’s the story that fits our cherished image of our nation as a land of opportunity like none other.

Recently, though, I felt ashamed that I — someone who wants to believe she’s well informed — had overlooked a key piece of my own…

The tragic place America finds itself in

The top one-tenth of 1 percent controls as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, while roughly a fifth of American children live in poverty, and half of American infants are so poor they depend on public aid to eat.(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It’s easy to feel fatalistic, accepting as “just the way things are” an America in which the top one-tenth of 1 percent controls as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, while roughly a fifth of American children live in poverty, and half of American infants are so poor they depend on public aid to eat.

But wait.

What if we were to acknowledge — to really let sink in — that we have arrived at this tragic place in no time at all, historically speaking? Might we even feel entitled to hope…

Let’s drop the dead-end debate of capitalism versus socialism and focus on choosing terms that capture what we really mean — an open, fair, and accountable market essential to real democracy.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to members of the media after the She The People Presidential Forum at Texas Southern University on April 24, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Many of the Democrat presidential candidates are attending the forum to focus on issues important to women of color. (Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

My headline poses a question I struggle with.

“Capitalism” refers to an economy driven by owners of private capital, typically with the aim of bringing the highest possible return to themselves, and I am sure that is not what Senator Elizabeth Warren stands for.

Warren has made clear that what she wants (and I do, too!) is “accountable capitalism,” a market economy that works for all of us because…

Frances Moore Lappé

The author of nineteen books, beginning with the acclaimed Diet for a Small Planet, and co-author of Daring Democracy.

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