10 Stories That Gave Readers Hope in 2021

Photo: istock

by The Editors of Yes Magazine

Indy Editor’s note: This story, by The Editors of Yes, first appeared in Yes Magazine on December 21, 2021. This article is reprinted under creative commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).


Faced with such overwhelming suffering and systemic injustice, the temptation to succumb to despair is strong. We feel it too. But here at YES!, we’re fortunate to have windows into moments of hope, progress, and positive change. The stories we’ve been able to tell this year have reminded us—and you, we hope—that every single day, there are people working hard in their communities to build a more equitable, sustainable, and compassionate world. 

Looking back at the year’s top 10 most popular stories, it’s clear that you, dear readers, were hungry for those hopeful stories too. We’re inspired by your willingness to learn—about transformative justice, the roots of modern food movements, and the possibility of an ecological civilization. You dove in to stories exploring new possibilities for ways to return land to Indigenous communities, to provide housing for people often left out of existing structures, and to turn climate anxiety into meaningful action. And you stayed with us when we shared hard truths that needed telling: about White supremacy, environmental racism, and the colonial, racist underpinnings of the violence that grabs headlines nationwide. 

Every day, we strive to bring you content that helps you understand the chaos we’re all facing. And this year’s collection of most-read stories is a testament to the fact that there is still hope for us yet. Thank you for your time, your support, and all you do to build the better world we all believe is possible. 

A coalition of NYC Black Lives Matter activists and environmental justice groups marching on the 51st anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X at the NYC Solidarity Rally for Flint in New York City, on Feb. 21, 2016.

1. 10 Examples of Environmental Racism and How It Works

Here’s what to know about the unexpected effects of discriminatory environmental policies.

2. What Does an Ecological Civilization Look Like?

A society based on natural ecology might seem like a far-off utopia—yet communities everywhere are already creating it.

“We are unarmed” was the repeated cry of protesters at Standing Rock, who called themselves “water protectors.”

3. Native Americans on Police Response to Capitol Insurrection

“No way would Black or Brown people be treated that way had they attacked a symbol of our democracy.”

Scientific research supports the idea of plant intelligence. In “The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence” scientists and writers consider the connection and communication between plants.

4. Hearing the Language of Trees

The author of Braiding Sweetgrass on how human people are only one manifestation of intelligence in the living world.

“I am tired of being told that this world I was handed is irrevocably broken. I understand that the climate leaders from generations past are tired too, and that the decades of work have disheartened some. The youth climate movement deserves hope and optimism regardless.”

5. Don’t Tell Me to Despair About the Climate: Hope Is a Right We Must Protect

There is no point at which we can no longer strive to make the future better than it otherwise would be.

Rastafarianism is a spiritual practice rich with political ideology and a reverence for the Earth. And their veganism is part of a broader belief in Black sovereignty, health, and ecological harmony.

6. The Unsung Caribbean Roots of the Vegan Food Movement

While eating a plant-based diet is often presented as a White, millennial fad that accompanies gentrification, Black people have a long and rich tradition of plant-based eating.

Asian shoppers at a street market in Chinatown, Los Angeles, California, on Nov. 10, 2020.

7. Addressing Anti-Asian Attacks With Transformative Justice

As attacks on Asian communities rise, so must understanding and solidarity between Asian and Black communities to challenge the real enemy, White supremacy.

Nick Folkins, a Yurok citizen and a Yurok Fisheries Department technician, captures juvenile salmon for a long-term study on McGarvey Creek, a Klamath River tributary.

8. The Yurok Tribe Is Using California’s Carbon Offset Program to Buy Back Its Land

With income from sequestering carbon in its forests, the tribe has supported youth programming, housing, road improvement, and businesses development.

Thousands who attended a pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally storm the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. The supporters stormed the historic building, breaking windows and clashing with police.

9. This Is America

This country was founded on violence and desecration. If you want it to be better, prove it.

Community members at the grand opening of the GLITS building in the Woodhaven neighborhood of Queens, New York, on Nov. 13, 2020. From left to right, Jas Van Wales, Ciora Thomas, Ceyenne Doroshow, and Kimberly.

10. Black and Brown Trans People Have a New Place to Call Home in New York City

A building offering affordable housing now stands as a symbol of trans self-reliance and resilience.

YES! EDITORS are those editors featured on YES! Magazine‘s masthead. Stories authored by YES! Editors are substantially reported, researched, and written by at least two members of the YES! Editorial team.

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