Can anyone tell me where the value is in waiting right now?  How is the economy going to get better  if we return to what we’ve had?  The people who are comfortable now will still be comfortable, and those who aren’t, probably won’t be any better off.

Can we fix Greece or Spain?  Can we change Congress right now?  Even if we wait until November, will January 1 bring a whole new way of life?  I don’t think so.  The rules haven’t changed, and the people who made those rules will still be in control.

Citizens United put our government firmly controlled by those who have the money.  If we want to change that, it will take time.  Don’t we all need to find a way to get to that point where the change can happen?  How do we get to that time?  Will more people be homeless? hungry? troubled? depressed.
We can’t change all of that in the next few weeks or months, but we can start to show plans of how to improve those problems.

Historically people go through bad times by helping each other, sharing resources and taking problems one day at a time.  The Depression wasn’t a time to start new universities, but it was the time to use those existing structures to improve the lives of the people.  It was the onset of 4H and Cooperative Extension, and the development of the Soil Conservation Service.  It wasn’t because everyone was going to become farmers, though many were. It was because people had resources that they could work with, but they didn’t have access to overcome some of the problems they encountered.  These efforts helped people find solutions to the meet their needs, ie. avoiding hunger, not getting arrested for public nudity, Keeping a roof over a family’s head, and stretching those meager available pennies.

Now is not so different, though we have the “Great Recession” instead of the “Great Depression.”  We still have those fundamental needs to meet, but we have lost the infrastructure for how to meet them.
School have cut agricultural and “home economics” departments because these were “obsolete.”  Are they now?  Do you know how to tell quality meat? Can you mend a torn jacket so that no one knows it was damaged?   Canning and preserving is moving from a “quaint activity,” to one of necessity for the family that wants affordable fruit “off season.”

Our culture has gotten so dependent upon electronics that we declare a state of “emergency” in our lives if our cell phone doesn’t have service, or the power goes out in the “restaurant district,” so that we might have to fix our own meals, from scratch. But our families don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.  Bringing back family connections such as telling family stories, making meals together or completing cooperative projects, were ways that cultures survived.  It’s something that we can do for ourselves , and not wait for others to do them for us.

The age old practice of working together to get to the destination has been proven through time.  We at North Country Sustainability Center are showing everyone one way to proceed. Some people say “it’s not in my region,” but it could be.  Others say “I don’t need that information,”  maybe you could help someone who does.

We can ask “When will someone…”  or “if only we could do….”  But I think it’s much more productive to say “How do we do this?”   It means looking at things with creativity, but that’s America has been good at.  Rather than dealing with juvenile crime and hunger by building new detention centers and free lunch programs, why not encourage those young people to learn to grow things, sell them for their  pay, and teach them to cook, so they walk away with money, skills and dreams?  It’s happening all over the country, like the Food Project in Roxbury, MA or Growing Power in Milwaukee, WI.

The arts have been cut from many curricula but they can be brought to everyone by encouraging people to express themselves artistically.  To me, the enjoyment of an art piece is more when I discover a unique treasure, than simply viewing masters; others feel differently.   The range of  “What is Art” is as wide as the world’s population, but sharing it doesn’t take fantastic funds.  We do need to protect those pieces that are universally valued, but if that is to happen, we have to keep them relevant and allow people to develop a taste for them.

When I look at solutions moving forward, and at this point I’d rather do that instead of fixating on the problems, I see some great examples of addressing the issues.  North Country Sustainability Center is one of those solution places, and part of our goal is to make it work as a beacon for others with similar goals.  But we need people to know that we’re here, and what we’re doing. We’ve had the inspiration of self-reliance and know that while we can’t solve the nation’s problems, we can help our neighbors address them.

We are about to finish a crowd-funding fundraising, so that’s one way to get involved. But if you want to be part of a movement that shows people what Americans CAN do, join us.  People in our region will have access to a shared facility for growing food, commercial kitchen and creamery, the ability to use our equipment for sewing, woodworking, and art tools.  They will have access to a shared show arena for classes, shows, and clinics, as well as open space for recreational activities that promote a sustainable community.  What will people who live outside the region get?  Access to membership podcasts and newsletters, advice and references for addressing sustainability in your region, and networking among the growing sustainability community.

Sustainability crosses energy, environment and economic boundaries. It acts much like a spiderweb connecting all aspects of life, answering the question “what does it take to keep living here?”  We don’t want to wait any longer. We have the people with the tools and the needs. We even have a site that brings alternative energy, sustainable agriculture, history, the arts, economic growth and celebrating community. We don’t have a local newspaper anymore, so we’re looking a new technical solution to that problem.  But because we are a group of small towns with lots of rural space around us, we need a “boost” from others to make it happen.

Are you as tired of waiting as we are? If so, help build a solution, and in time we can help others build their regional solution.  But it takes a “nation,” to revive a nation, and instead of waiting for Washington to do it, let’s start one region, one community at a time. Are you ready to build that revival? If so, please join NCSC in showing that we can do this with what’s available, if we just work together.

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