As the economy continues to struggle, it looks like we have two choices.  We can hunker down and save our pennies, keeping our goods and talents to ourselves. This allows a short term sense of control, but the savings wither away and fear grows. Or we can put our pennies and energies into projects that provide benefits for many. Some of those benefits may be financial, eventually, but we enjoy a sense of accomplishment, community and build a bank of good references, experiences, as we wait for the financial rewards.

In our continuing effort to restructure local economies we are blessed to meet so many people with common interests, knowledge to build on, and energy that lights inspiration.  But we also meet those who think that our effort is such a great thing, they should copy it. Or it isn’t very useful because it isn’t happening in their home town.  We have so built our culture on economy that we have relegated cooperation to a “lefty idea,” or one that is idealistic and unrealistic.

But part of every sustainable project is the concept of keeping something operational at a particular level. There is no such thing as growth without complications. Sustainable means that at some point growth becomes optimal, allowing other aspects of the economy to benefit to the point where they reach optimal levels.

In a region where our rural character and small town ambiance is valued, it certainly doesn’t make sense that any one town can be “one thing to all people.;”  that was never the point of small town living. So if one town enjoys the temporary benefits of activity at a sustainability center, it may not have the space for temporary lodging. Hospitality services, camping areas, evening activities, or other recreational activities are all still needed by those visitors. Those are opportunities to develop aspects of neighboring economies.

Surrounding townspeople will enjoy the chance to gain new experiences, learn new skills, market their own products and build their own presence in their own town.  Not all users of NCSC, or other sustainability projects will choose to locate, or market their goods at the facility that they developed it.  They build up their own audience, support their communities and benefit their neighbors by bringing those goods and services back to their own town.

And so it grows. But it can’t if people follow the recent trend of  “hunkering down.”  By jumping into the pool of community projects , such as North Country Sustainability Center, grows stability and security that can’t be spent the way that money can.  By pooling resources, such as funds and talents, we compound that community interest into a long term benefit for everyone,  and eventually the money will come. But just as importantly, the town works better, people value their homes and themselves more, and that sense of community spreads into community pride and budgets will be easier to balance.

That sense of community is not limited to any particular piece of geography. It extends to promoting our common interests, inspiring people to get involved locally, and turn this country around. It is not as familiar as the model we are used to, but it is the model that built every successful community in history.  With current technology, it should be even easier, but we just have to keep building those projects. So don’t be left out, dive in and help!