April 2013 Roundup: Social Change, DIY Science, and Too Much Stuff

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Some of our best
online-only material from the month of April

While we may have shed our “Best of the Alternative Press”
tagline, Utne.com is still all about envisioning and realizing alternatives–whether
that’s a different kind of politics or a new way to collaborate on a DIY
science project. With that mind, here are some of our favorite blog posts,
articles, and book excerpts from the past month.

For Story of Stuff
filmmaker Annie Leonard, one big alternative begins with liberating ourselves
from overconsumption and recognizing the commons all around us. “We have to learn to
share more and waste less,” she says in an interview with former Utne editor Jay Walljasper. “The good news is that these changes not only will enable us
to continue to live on this planet, but they will result in a happier,
healthier society overall.”

In a similar vein, in “The Ideabook,” author Katie Haegele
explores how repurposing
vintage clothing
–you might call it cross-generational sharing–can help us
connect with the struggles, changes, and styles of the past, especially if we
approach that past knowingly.

Sharing is also a big part of Dani Burlison’s post
on California’s Maker Faire
, an annual festival of crafts, science
projects, and innovative ideas. With a strong emphasis on collaborative
learning and a DIY ethos, the Faire creates a unique space where experimentation
is encouraged and cooperation is essential.

For those who envision larger changes, Starhawk’s new EmpowermentManual and a new book of Howard Zinn speeches offer inspiring models
for making it happen. While Zinn explores the life
and enduring significance
of activist, writer, and all-around awesome
person Emma Goldman, Starhawk’s blueprint
for social change
gives us the tools to realize the kind of transformation
Goldman had long fought for. As Starhawk writes, the first thing such struggle
requires is a positive vision for change: “We are most empowered when we know
what we do want, not just what we don’t want.”

That’s certainly true of the teachers’ movement Nancy
Schniedewind and Mara Sapon-Shevin describe in
Educational Courage. The
reform agenda may be powerful, they write, but it can’t stop them from envisioning
and working toward a truly democratic education system–one
where social justice and connection to a larger community are front and center.

We can also see some of that hopefulness in Jon Queally’s surprisingly
optimistic update
on the climate movement’s anti-Keystone campaign. The
State Department’s official “comment period” may be over, writes Queally, but
the fight sure isn’t.

A little less hopeful, but no less informative, is Suzanne
Lindgren’s excellent
gif blog
on the history of corporate power in Washington–from the Powell Memo to corporate
personhood. “Nearly 80 percent
of the public opposes the Citizens United decision,” Suzanne writes. “That it hasn’t
been reversed goes to show how skewed the current balance of power is.”

Equally sobering are the campaign
finance stats
Lawrence Lessig shares with us, from the time Congresspeople
actually spend begging rich folks for money (a lot) to the 132 Americans–that’s
the .000042 percent, if you’re curious–responsible for 60 percent of
Super PAC funding in 2012.

To realize real alternatives, it seems, we’re going to have
to confront the system of institutionalized bribery holding sway over Washington–or,
as insiders call it, politics.

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.