Feb 18, 2012
Visionaries don’t always make us comfortable. Some use ugly language, like Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis, the Toronto women who have reclaimed the word slut. Some quit their workaday jobs in disgust and turn to new mediums, like David Simon, who abandoned what he saw as the withering journalist trade for the powerful art form of television. Some publicly criticize their peers, like Alice Dreger, an activist who exposes the questionable practices of genital reconstructive surgeons. Some, like farmer Jim Gerritsen, work within the law to attack the status quo; others, like environmentalist Tim DeChristopher, get arrested for their heartfelt actions.
The 25 men and women in the following pages have probably ticked off a lot of people. That’s what happens when you have creative, boundary-leaping, uncomfortable ideas—and you pursue them. These people also have delivered hope and renewed faith and tangible improvements to the lives of millions. Their vision, paired with their action, has literally brought food, shelter, and medicine where it was needed. Successes that can be measured and held are wonderful—and much needed—but equally important are the new ideas, the new words, and the new dreams that they’ve engendered.
Every year, Utne Reader puts forward its selection of world visionaries, people who have that extra twist of imagination and determination and energy, people who don’t just concoct great ideas but also act on them and lay their souls on the line for change. We’re proud to present you with 2011’s lineup of dreamers and doers.