What Makes a Revolutionary Idea: A Letter From the Editor

Inside the May/June issue of Pacific Standard, which explores revolutionary ideas and the people behind them.
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Inside the May/June issue of Pacific Standard, which explores revolutionary ideas and the people behind them.
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Our current president was elected to office on the promise that he would bring jobs back to America—that he alone could grow the economy in ways previously unseen. Donald Trump's economic plan calls for creating 25 million new jobs over the next decade. That's a vision we can all get behind—and many did back in November—but can he pull it off? Can anyone?

In the early 1970s, a group of environmental scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a giant mainframe computer to generate several future scenarios for population and economic growth around the world given existing resources. Their report, The Limits to Growth, was a clarion call for humanity to recognize the inevitable limits imposed by a finite planet. Nevertheless, in the 40-plus years since it was published, politicians have clung to an ideology that has been illogical from the start: that endless economic growth is not only possible but is the highest achievement for human society.

A version of this story originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.

A version of this story originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.

In this issue, Christopher Ketcham looks back at the legacy of The Limits to Growth and considers why we still believe the myth. That essay anchors a series of feature stories built around the theme of revolutionary ideas—an expansion of our annual 30 under 30 franchise, which is packed with bright young minds with some big ideas of their own. This year's selection includes a physics prodigy and autism advocate; a behavioral economist at Facebook; several innovative advocates for veterans; and a handful of inventors.

The architect of our list since its inception, Avital Andrews, says that she's often asked if narrowing down the field of candidates we receive each year is a depressing task. "They mean, I think, that it must be disheartening to focus on people who have accomplished so much so young, while we common older folk (I am, let's say, past 30) live our commoner, older lives," she explains.

But, in fact, she feels the opposite. "It's inspiring," Andrews writes in the introduction to our 12-page package, which this year also includes a series of miniature profiles of inspiring folks on the other end of the age spectrum (Trump didn't make the cut). "It gives me faith for the future. Rather than be intimidated by the 30 up-and-comers on Pacific Standard's 2017 list, we should take their existence as a needed sign that everything might, after all, turn out OK."

In an age when political logic has seemingly vanished, I find this reminder more vital than ever.

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