Illustration by Harry Campbell for TIME
TIME

Finding Purpose at a Moment of Crisis and Division

Illustration by Harry Campbell for TIME

Earlier this summer, TIME senior correspondent Justin Worland traveled to the Mahoning Valley, an area of northeast Ohio once teeming with manufacturing and now better known for plant closings. There he met William “Doug” Franklin, who grew up in the Valley, where his father worked in a local steel mill and his mother at a local auto supplier. Franklin himself worked 25 years at the now shuttered local General Motors facility. Today he’s the mayor of the town of Warren, focused on turning the area into an epicenter of electric-vehicle manufacturing. Even though he knows it’s not certain where the new jobs will emerge and whether they’ll equal the jobs he and his parents had, he’s optimistic.

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“We know how to take a punch and how to recover; that’s just in our DNA,” Franklin told Justin.

Resilience is a theme running throughout this issue, and throughout this year in which the punches just keep coming. As the Delta variant extends its march across the U.S., correspondent Jamie Ducharme writes on the growing reality that COVID-19 may well be with us in some form as a “forever virus.” Searing images of damage wrought by extreme heat, in a portfolio by photographer Adam Ferguson, reinforce the grim findings of this month’s U.N. climate report that the planetary crisis is no longer a threat but our current reality. National political correspondent Molly Ball’s powerful profile of officer Mike Fanone, who nearly died defending the Capitol on Jan. 6, underscores the challenges that continue to face democracy. “In the aftermath of a national tragedy, we are supposed to come together,” Molly writes. “But what happens if we can’t agree? What if we’re too busy arguing?”

The issue also includes a series of stories, in partnership with the World Economic Forum, focusing on people who are seizing this moment of transformation. Like Warren Mayor Franklin, London Mayor Sadiq Khan believes in his city’s capacity to pick itself up off the mat. Staff writer Ciara Nugent writes about his efforts to drive environmental and social justice in one of the world’s largest and busiest cities. “The history of London is Muhammad Ali, knocking people out,” Khan says.

World Economic Forum chairman Klaus Schwab—80 years after TIME’s founder famously declared the “American Century”—writes that the long-anticipated “Asian Century” is gathering steam. The transformation has been largely driven by China, whose failures on human rights and democratic freedoms are undeniable, as is its success as an economic powerhouse. It has lifted hundreds of millions of its citizens out of poverty and is surging ahead in the adoption of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. But as Schwab points out, China and the rest of Asia face the same social, economic and environmental crises as everyone else—and overcoming them will require significant global cooperation.

How do we do that in this moment of crisis and division?

I find hope in a group called Inspiration4, the subject of a profile in this issue and a documentary series from TIME Studios, airing globally on Netflix beginning Sept. 6. The mission—which also aims to raise $200 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital—will mark the first time an all-civilian, nongovernmental crew has taken to orbit, and is led by startup CEO and pilot Jared Isaacman, who bought all four seats aboard a SpaceX Dragon rocket.

“I could have just invited a bunch of my pilot buddies to go, and we would have had a great time and come back and had a bunch of cocktails,” Isaacman told TIME editor at large Jeffrey Kluger. “Instead, we wanted to bring in everyday people and energize everyone else around the idea of opening up spaceflight to more and more of us.”

We hope you join us and Inspiration4 for the mission.

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