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Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.

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10 Ideas for Progress from 2020 to Bring into 2021

Original ideas, constructive takes, and pragmatic fixes that grappled with all the big stuff: everything from climate change to the battle for America's soul.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This year may have (mostly) been a dumpster fire, but there is good news out there, and our Members were also busy spreading the word on their original ideas, constructive takes, and pragmatic fixes that grappled with all the big stuff: everything from climate change to the battle for America’s soul. Here are 10 think pieces that deserve to be revisited as we transition into a fresh start of the new year. (We thought about doing 20, but can our #covidbrains really handle a list that long? Nah, we didn’t think so, either.) They remind us that progress is still possible, even now.

#1: On Politics

America Is Having a Moral Convulsion

David Brooks

The call to action in this Atlantic piece is not subtle. “The stench of national decline is in the air. A political, social, and moral order is dissolving. America will only remain whole if we can build a new order in its place,” writes Brooks. This will require rebuilding trust in our politics, in our institutions, and perhaps most difficult—in each other. Are we up to the task?

#2: On Racial Justice

America Begins to See More Clearly Now What Its Black Citizens Already Knew

Theodore R. Johnson

During a summer when the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor rang from lips across the country, Johnson, writing for National Review, encourages us to continue reckoning with the spirit of the protests and draws inspiration from the new multiracial coalition, unprecedented in number, that is pushing for justice.

#3: On All Things Online

To Mend a Broken Internet, Create More Online Parks

Eli Pariser

2020: the year of “praise be the Internet”—it allowed many of us to continue working safely and connect with family and friends during the pandemic— as well as the acknowledgement that the Internet might be the devil. Or at least that how our online spaces are structured has caused a lot of cultural and political damage. Pariser’s article in Wired shows us a way forward.

#4: On the Opioid Epidemic

Using Telemedicine to Treat Opioid Addiction

Tina Rosenberg

Remember the opioid epidemic? It’s still with us. One plus of COVID-world is that telemedicine is now connecting Americans with providers who are licensed to prescribe buprenorphine, the most successful treatment for opioid addiction. (How’s this for a soundbite: 40% of American counties have no local licensed providers.) The ongoing efforts of Tina Rosenberg and the Fixes team at The New York Times are well worth becoming a staple in your reading list.

#5: On the Spiritual

Love Is the Motive

Krista Tippett interviews Bryan Stevenson

It’s simplest to say: we love this On Being podcast episode with Equal Justice Initiative’s Bryan Stevenson, in which he discusses the crucial role that hope plays in pushing for justice. We could all do with a little hope, which may not be as fiery as outrage but is quietly effective over the long-term.

#6: On Activism

Remember Martin Luther King, Jr.?

John Wood, Jr.

Nonviolence is forgiving, suffering, loving, active, and hopeful—and also difficult to follow. But that shouldn’t stop us from answering its higher call, argues Wood in Persuasion, the online outlet of TPN Member Yascha Mounk. It is a persuasive piece, indeed, that asks us to see beyond confrontational activism to nonviolence’s transformative capacities.

#7: On Foreign Policy

Will 2020 Finally Kill America’s War Fetish?

Andrew J. Bacevich

America has waged wars on poverty, drugs, cancer, and now, COVID-19—all while fighting actual wars abroad. In this piece for The New Republic, Andrew J. Bacevich makes the case for leaving military flyovers and Rose the Riveter images behind, and giving the prescriptive war rhetoric a rest because, well, not everything is war.

#8: On Mental Health

Here’s the best way to take care of your mental health during the pandemic

Alice Chen and Vivek Murthy

No, it’s not binge-watching Netflix. This article on CNN from duo Alice Chen and Vivek Murthy gets at mental health holistically in a year that saw a deadly pandemic, racial justice movements, and widespread loneliness due to social distancing. Loneliness, though, has been pervasive in our culture long before COVID-19 came; the authors suggest three easy tips for checking in on loved ones’ mental wellbeing, and advocate for expanded mental health services and other policy changes.

#9: On Climate Change

To Fight Climate Change, Get Real

Ted Nordhaus and Alex Trembath

Another Persuasion piece on a very different topic. Ted Nordhaus and Alex Trembath tackle a question on our minds since the 80s: politically, what’s the best way to go about mitigating climate change? Newsflash, they say: betting the farm on the Democratic Party isn’t going to work. To build an effective climate response, we need to step away from “hitching the future of the climate to the political fortunes of one party.”

#10: On Work

Equality in the US Starts with Better Jobs

Zeynep Ton

The pandemic has made it very clear that so many of our essential workers, like grocery store clerks and drivers, work low-paying jobs that don’t compensate for this risk and offer little in terms of benefits or stable schedules. Ton argues that business leaders need to step up, much as they did after World War II, to create good jobs, and not just “assume these conditions as an inevitability of doing business.”

These are only 10 examples. Our 75+ Members have contributed outstanding work all year long, moving the needle in their respective fields toward progress. You can follow what they have to say by signing up for our newsletter.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.