Abby’s Words

Recently Abby Sciuto, a beloved character on NCSC, spoke the line “How can something shiny and good grow if someone doesn’t help?” (or something like that.)  When I heard it, I had to write this blog.

This morning I heard a oft-repeated conflict of “environmental consideration is anti-business.”  We are facing the same thing here.  The stories on NPR this morning were about “high tech disposal pollution,” which happen on Indian reservations and “remote Eastern Kentucky.”  Then I heard a discussion about an attempt to get the oil/gas industry to pay for the steps needed to stabilize and rebuild the Louisiana coast.  I actually heard one spokesman say something alone the line of “It’s true that when you dig canals to bring pipelines in, you do lose land.  But the water is what made the additional damage, not the canals.”  Really, do they now know basic hydro-dynamics?  If water can get into a place, it will, and will erode any surface that it can, just because it is such a great solvent.

The “remote Eastern Kentucky,” and “Indian reservations,” are another way to say “places where the people don’t matter.”  Well I can tell you, we do matter. And it’s not just us. It’s the plants and animals that surround us.  We somehow have to find a way that computer graded examinations can easily assess the integration of ecology.  No species lives in isolation.  There is “no safe ground to destroy.”  People who live in the country are not less valuable than those who live in the city. In fact, I would say that if you don’t have people in the country guarding the resources, carrying on traditions, holding the wisdom of our elders, good luck with the future.

I know that I am slow, and I like money as much as most other people, (not as much as some, though, Thank God,) but I do not understand why we must continually choose greed over grace, money over nature.  I haven’t found a way to eat, breathe or drink money.  I have never found staring at a pile of bills to be as thrilling as watching a baby animal learn to walk, or a seed sprout into a plant.  I have found a group of people to be as astounding as a flock of birds finding their way “home” to place where many have never been before.

We need to regard our wild places, our remote spaces, as buffer zones that are the wealth of all.  In my backyard we are facing a natural gas pipeline coming through our rock, many feet below grade. The only way to do that is to shake up our wells, our aquifers, our radon and arsenic deposits.  We don’t matter? What if my son is the next “Confucius?”  What if my neighbor’s daughter is the next woman to pilot a space ship? Do you all want to risk those gifts because they grew up in the fresh air, drinking clean water with space to run and play?

Abby says we need to help the good places grow through the darkness. I agree.  We need places where people can share their wisdom; a site where alternatives can be explained, discovered and promoted. There is so much good all around us, but we have to help each other combine those pieces of sunshine into a brilliant space for a positive future.  That’s what we’re trying to do at North Country Sustainability Center, Inc.  This  beautiful area is very much endangered because we are “remote,” and overlooked. Like our fresh air, and sparkling water, our people are the source of a better future for everyone. Help us grow our “brilliant place,” so we can help others grow theirs.

ForeverLand

“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. ” These were the words written by J. M. Barrie to describe how to reach Neverland in his book, Peter Pan.  We don’t need a NeverLand. We need a ForeverLand.  A place that’s “ a beacon in the fog of lost hopes” that people can focus on to find a better world.  It won’t be a utopia, because that is not feasible. It will not be perfect, because it will be run by humans.  Mistakes will happen, but they will create growth, but only if it gets out the “idea seed.”

Our world, particularly America, faces so many problems; environmental damage, financial inequality,  the wealthy dominate out government to the detriment of everyone else, and many people are nearly despondent at the powerless they feel.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have power, if we use the Constitution as we were taught about it, to take it back. To do that we need to understand and take on the role of citizens, accepting that it comes with responsibility, and work. We need to stop blaming “the other party,” and become a unified force for a fairer nation. A nation that cares about its impact on other nations, and on its residents and citizens.  Rather than worry so much about protecting our “individual rights,” we need to work to protect “the rights of every American.”

But that role begins with getting connected and informed.  We need to re-meet our neighbors, share the knowledge each of us has, and reconnect with others who can either fill in the gaps we have, or help us to fill them with skills and experience.  That means connecting rural and urban populations, beyond “Yankee” magazine or “Field and Stream.”  Rural life is not utopian, nor is it ignorant. It is simply different, and vital, if we are going to continue to feed our country with healthy food.  Not all food is created equal, and while we need industrial farms to feed the massive cities that dot our nation, those farms can be more sustainable, IF we make it worth their while.  That means paying fair prices for their food.   Fair does not mean cheap. Consider the amount of time, work and energy that has gone into that food. Would you want to be paid a slave wage for that work if you were the one doing it? Probably not.

Looking at our challenges in the future, it can seem overwhelming. Certainly worthy of rolling up the driveway and becoming a hermit, but that won’t help.  Everyone needs someone else, even if it’s just for company to keep us civil.  That interaction helps keep us human, and helps us develop our best selves. Whether it’s by teaching, or learning, helping or observing, expanding our brains usually expands our hearts as well.  Like Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, many of us have hearts that are “two sizes too small.” We’ve become so scared and worried that we have forgotten how wonderful it can feel to help someone else, or marvel at someone else’s generosity.

Civilization is marked by the art and artifacts that we leave behind. Do we want to leave our descendants a world of wire grates and pavement, or a world that is vibrant, clean and open?  To make that happen we need to foster each other’s creativity and gifts; celebrate the contributions made by each of us, and see how we can develop that generosity and kindness to young people through integrating agriculture, the environment, arts and politics into everyday life.

So how do we find this “ForeverLand?”  There needs to be more than one, because everyone needs to have something like it in their area.  But no two ForEverlands will ever be the same.  They should complement each other, build on each other and connect each other.  But they need to start somewhere. That is what we’re trying to do here in North Central Massachusetts.

This “ForeverLand,” will grow out of the rubble of old mills, empty houses, and communities that have been left behind by urbanization.  We’re not complaining. We like our rural life, or our small city lives, but we can be that “beacon in the fog,” if people will help us.

We have natural treasures of fresh water, clean air, and open space, but we are threatened by energy companies that believe that remoteness is their opportunity to bury a natural gas pipeline through our aquifers, granite and wetlands.  We have senior citizens who remember recovering from the Depression and World War II, and retain the disappearing skills of canning, carpentry, and farming.
We have open space to help those who want to learn self-reliance, and to share our animals and knowledge with those who need them.  We have the skill set to help our neighbors, and the nation, learn to adjust to whatever the climate and society have to offer.  We embrace technology, old and new, but realize that there needs to be a “knowledge Fountain,” where people can learn from each other, find those with like minds, and spread the word of self-reliance and community involvement.

Please, if you see the value of these “ForeverLands,” help us make the first one come to life. Purchase a Sustainability Badge for $1.00, a Local Link of your choice for $1.00, or give whatever you can afford to help us. Be a Revivor of tarnished skills, so we can polish them up for the future.  Help us celebrate community, creativity, compassion and cooperation by giving to North Country Sustainability Center, and tell your friends about our “ForeverLand.”  Please and thank you.

A Letter, A Poem

Dear People;

This is your planet. 
Storms, quakes, droughts and deaths did not reach you,
So now I’m trying in your language – I am dying.
Blame is not the issue, change is
Who made me is insignificant, I am here.
I am based on balance. Balance on my poles
Balance on my pressure.
Balance in my resources. 
Lopsidedness can only last so long, and now I am tilting.
The only green that really matters is that which grows
Hoarding anything; food, water, wealth, stops balance.
I exist in symbiosis, not predation.  You are predators.
Thankfully, not all, but way too many.
Please think before you act. Do you really need that?
Could someone else use it better?
Does the cost reflect the work? The damage?
Many of you no longer know how I work – please learn
Money does not make me function, care does.
Find others who can teach you.
Share the knowledge that you have.
Remember our planetary family is at stake.
We need each other, and I need your help.

Love, Earth.

Building the Power of One

I am so tired of the “little guy” losing out.  As I sit here preparing for upcoming meetings about the natural gas pipeline proposed for our region, I get so angry.  I want that time back, that I remember, when people communicated, worked together, got informed and made decisions.  I admit. I am over a half a century old, from a different part of the country (Midwest moved to New England) but I fervently believe that people have encouraged to be complacent in recent years, and since complacency is easier than involvement, we lost our “citizenship-bones.”

Now as part of the Sustainable Troop, (it’s not an army, but a strong group,) I am seeing for myself how we’ve forgotten those foundations of listening.  I’ve seen in it my board members. Each new one, rather than asking questions as to what we’ve been doing, immediately runs through the same list of potential ideas that we’ve already run through.  It gets them frustrated that their ideas “aren’t being listened to,” but it also wastes everyone’s time.  (Note to Self:  Start a list of previous actions to show new board members, ie. Fundraising and Marketing.)  Some may be worth trying again under new leadership, but others just aren’t worth it.

Even now, as we bring different groups together on this one issue, each brings their own agenda. Instead of asking each group what they’ve done already, which could either inspire or save time reviewing, each new leader comes in with a punch list, and an ego war begins.  Who’s idea is better? Is one a better leader than another?  But it’s really not about that. The successfulness of an approach is not recognized for who lead it, but by how it succeeded in its goal.

The Sustainability Movement has HUGE hurdles to manage. We don’t have time to deal with egos, converting agendas, or anger. Let those motivations be the energy behind making the planet healthier, making our communities run better, and keeping our families intact and prospering. Right now we don’t really have the ear of the media. We don’t pay for advertising, so we can’t compete with  commercials or lobbyists. We have to use the power of the stomach, the heart and the soul to reach people, and while I personally believe that these are far more powerful than greed, certainly recent decades, perhaps centuries, have put greed on steroids.

We have to use our creativity to reach those fundamental needs – Food, shelter, Security, Water, to promote the individual self-interest of working together.  Most people will gravitate toward others who share their goals, and in our case that is Sustainability.  We really can’t rely on “Green-Dar,” our form of “GayDar,” to know who is like minded.  To o mu

We have to use our creativity to reach those fundamental needs – Food, shelter, Security, Water, to promote the individual self-interest of working together.  Most people will gravitate toward others who share their goals, and in our case that is Sustainability.  We really can’t rely on “Green-Dar,” our form of “GayDar,” to know who is like minded.  Too much of that is determined by fashion, peer pressure and just plain, budgetary constraints.  If we all wore bumper stickers, it might be easier, but that’s not really useful, especially in cities where fewer people drive.  We need that emblem of Sustainability – the Badge.

In this fight against the pipeline, this is Tennessee Pipeline Gas Company, a subsidiary of Kinder Martin Energy, that is coming through our pristine backyards.  This is the third largest energy company in the nation coming through some of the poorest land in the country; land which is primarily granite, which will require blasting for miles.  The water under our land may have its problems, but its not pollution.  It’s radon and arsenic deposits which are tested for an individual basis for each well, but that will not be found in the fracturing of the rock that will happen with the blasting, the vibration from the big machines and from the traffic of the utilities.  Kinder Martin lives in Texas. Tennessee Gas doesn’t live in North Central Massachusetts. But we do.  We need to bring the strength of the hardy farmers and rural people to bear in this fight, and we need the numbers of the educated city dwellers, and to educate more city dwellers. And we need to work together. Finding each other is paramount.  Showing our force is even more important.

Now I admit this is a fundraiser for North Country Sustainability Center, but it is something that can benefit the entire movement. Most people can afford $1.00, and most of us have specific areas of interest in the world of future.  $1.00 for each “local link,” people can find others who share those interests, or learn more about others, but striking up those conversations. That builds community, and that builds our “Troops.”

In our area, we’re trying to get people to show up at their informational meetings wearing their “badge” to counter the union presence, so people don’t feel so threatened by the intimidation tactics being used by Big Energy.  People feel stronger when they can look around to see that their goals are shared by others. Picket signs get in the way, but a “Sustainability Badge,” is easy.  A “Local Link,” helps build those specific communities such as local food and autism, and skills and local farmers.  It’s a lot easier than searching the web for someone near you who could help you.

If we each looked for that emblem that we could wear, on our jackets, briefcases, purses, backpacks, then we could unite much more easily.  If your choice is the Sustainability Badge from NCSC, then you are helping to build a model for this old idea in a new way – neighbors helping neighbors to bring old and new technologies together for a brighter future.  Then, if you want to do something similar in your region, you have a place to go to find out how it might work .

For more information about “The Badge,” and “Local Links,” visit www.northcountrysustain.org and visit /Knot.html and /LocalLinks.html for more information.

If you are in the Central New England region, wear your “Sustainability Badge,” to any meeting with TGP or your town officials, so we take your power of One and turn into a Troop for Tomorrow!

Sustainability – Votes from the Source

Image

Sustainability has become the “buzzword” for the modern world.  Googling it brings up quite the range of uses – “campus sustainability,”  “economic sustainability,” and the usual one “how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive” (Wikipedia). But it is important to remember “What we need to keep living here,”  – fresh air, clean water, high quality food, exercise, community and expendable income.

While the income thing is more local to each individual, the sources of clean air, clean water, and high quality food are often found in rural areas.

These areas are now being utilized as dumping zones for toxins, routes for pipeline and high tension electrical wires and other areas of pollution, adding to the concept of “away,” as in thrown away, flushed away, etc.
But these regions are the place, particularly in the mountainous and hilly terrains where the snow falls, allowing a more gentle run off than a flash flood.  It is our trees, plants and open space that allows them to enjoy fresh air, brisk hikes and relaxation time away from urban stresses. It also our small farms that they treasure for having the freshest, local food.  But if these lands are disrupted by dangerous toxins, then they will suffer in their everyday life as well as we do.

Those of us in the country, while we are outnumbered by the city dwellers, still pay taxes, still maintain these natural filter systems, and we still need to retain our voice through votes.  It is assumed by the media that we are all “red states,” that will vote against the government, against the environment, and for a conservative agenda.  But environmental conservationists include not only environmental activists, and sustainable farmers, but also hunters, fishermen, gun owners, and those who have chosen to run away from society.  We also include many people with summer homes, and others who value the gifts of the land that we provide.  This group of voters needs to be revived – so that we can SUSTAIN our planet, as well as ourselves.

The ways that we come at sustainability vary, but our ultimate goals are the same. We want to be able to put safe food on our family’s tables, drink clean water and enjoy the bounty and the serenity of the natural world. Our work in rural America benefits the entire country.  The more people who are reminded of their connection to the natural world, the more sustainable our world will be.  They need to recognize that the convenience and affordability they seek now will affect their health and affordability in the future.

I propose that we remind people that we are a major part of a sustainable future.  We need to get active as citizens again, and makes sure that we maintain some say in the choices for the future. Whether it’s hydro-fracking, decisions regarding raw milk safety, or the development of our rural regions, the choices are not being made with the wisdom of those who live in these areas.  If we are going to have sustainability in the future, we need to protect the natural and human resources of these regions, encourage their safety and strengthen the level of interaction between urban and rural residents.

At the top of this blog is a picture of a pin that NCSC has created. It started as a fundraiser to carry our “Local Links,” but it can do that as well as serve as a “badge” for sustainability.  Whether you are a person who strives for sustainability, one who is actually living in the rural areas, or someone who benefits from the items that are made available through agriculture and sustainable living, this badge can show others how much you care.  Let’s form a visible movement of those who want to protect our community, our environment and our families for the long run, not just find a short term solution to delay looking at a foreseeable problem.

These buttons are available for $1.00 a piece, and $.50 for shipping and handling for each shipment.  The funds will be used for setting up our sustainability center for Central New England, a place where people can learn and share sustainability skills, build community and use our tools to serve the most people. Want to specifically support a particular area of interest? Look at the colors we have available and donate a dollar for each one you support. We’ll send you a link to put on your pin, or you can use it another way, but let us see how you display it.

Red:   Local Food
Green: Local Farms
Light Blue: Arts
Multi Colored: Autism 
Argyle: Veterans

Yellow:  Pets
Purple: 4H
Maroon: Citizenship
Black: Skills
Gold: Community
Midnight Blue: Planet

Like a military officer displays his/her awards, let us show our support for the planet, and each other, through this Sustainability Pin, and the Links that accompany it.  It will visibly remind people that the source of a healthy future is healthy food, water, air and space to enjoy.

To learn more about NCSC’s “Local Link” please visit www.northcountrysustain.org/LocalLinks.html.  Send any payment to NCSC, PO Box 914, AShburnham, MA 01430, or to Hearth@northcountrysustain.org.  This is really important to regain our position in future decision-making.

An Innovative Economy

I keep hearing about the “Innovation Economy,” in Massachusetts, and I just keep smiling and sighing at the same time.  While I realize that the term means using technology in creative ways, and finding new technological approaches, when I look at the problems of the planet, I keep think we really DO need to be innovative – but for our natural survival, not our economy.

I know that the government hasn’t found a way to raise taxes off of the environment, but it certainly can save money by improving it. Along with developing video games, why don’t we give accolades to those people who are looking to use innovative approaches to living on the Earth?  There is a great song called “The Kindergarten Wall,” by John McCutcheon, that teaches children.

Of all you learn here remember this the best:
Don’t hurt each other and clean up your mess
Take a nap everyday, wash before you eat
Hold hands, stick together, look before you cross the street
And remember the seed in the little paper cup:
First the root goes down and then the plant grows up!”

I think we need to hang that on the Congressional walls, on offices throughout Wall Street, and on the backs of every judicial door in the country. Wouldn’t that be innovative? What would our economy look like if used the “innovation” of consideration, forethought and fairness instead of greed, ambition and cut-throat competition? 

As my hometown, and many others, struggle with how to preserve the beauty around us, the safety of our water, and the values of our rural lives, I can’t help but wonder where this poem was in the lives of the Big Energy executives.  Where was it in Mr. Cheney’s life?  Innovation doesn’t always mean “new.” It often means “unique, creative, unorthodox.”  I think in this world where money means success, innovation means new and money equals votes, we have had enough of that orthodoxy.  I would like to revisit the old “innovation,” of the village market, neighborly neighbors, and a recognitionthat resources are in short supply, and need to be valued as such. 

In the West, resource control brought about many battles between ranchers and sod-busters, cities and farms, even between states. Riparian rights were the cause of many a lawsuit, feud and struggle because they saw control of the water as a means to increase their bank account. Shouldn’t we have learned from that? But we still have a concentration of control in the hands of people who don’t live in the areas where they have control.  We have a system where money can influence election more than votes can. We have a governing party who wants to ignore science rather than admit they had used bad judgment, and just made bad decision.   So what’s the “innovation,” than can remedy that?

To my way of thinking it is a nation that is informed about natural resources, personal responsibility, and recognizes that people can co-exist, even if they have different approaches to the same issue.
North Country Sustainability Center’s Hearth is an “innovation center,” in that it builds on the strength of the community, on the “knowledge of the crowd,” and teaches the skills needed to survive, with and without digital technology.  This type of innovation is not a threat to traditional “innovation.”

We need both, and NCSC needs help to make our “innovation center,” a reality. We need to local interests and individuals together.  Take a look at www.northcountrysustain.org/LocalLinks.html and
help truly create an “Innovation Economy.”Image

For the Common Good

For the Common Good
Kathy Chencharik
South Royalston

We’d like to build a pipeline
Running through your neighborhood
A natural gas pipeline
And it’s for the common good.

This pipeline’s sorely needed
Buried deep beneath the loam
Earthquake warnings won’t be heeded
And some folks may lose their home.

We’ll use eminent domain
‘Cause in case you didn’t know
It’s for the common good
Like Quabbin towns lost long ago.

There may be some pollution
‘Neath the ground or in the air
Water contamination
But that’s neither here nor there.

We may need to clear-cut trees
Scatter wildlife through the wood
And destroy endangered species
But it’s for the common good.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 448 other followers