What is the backbone of a culture?  Have we come to the point where the economy is the backbone, or the people?  Though the two can’t live without each other, are they equal?  When I was growing up and my parents were worried about “the economy, stupid,”  I was frustratingly chanting, “but you can’t breathe money!”  We can’t eat it either. So is food, air, water, or human resource the backbone?  In trying to create this sustainability center, I struggle with how to get NCSC recognized as a step toward a positive future, when most people consider it one of those “nice things,” that we can live without.  Can we?

                Given our national obesity epidemic, aren’t clothes necessary? Do you really want to see our nation’s populous running around naked?  Given my weight issues, I don’t think you do.  So having available clothing, and the ability to repair or replace it, is necessary.  That may build the global economy, but what does it do locally?  If you want “What Not to Wear?” you’d think tailors and seamstresses are around every corner to do alterations.  Maybe they are if you are in New York City, but in my town, I can find one, but I can’t afford to pay for her to work for me.  But I can do many of my own “fixes,” and in a pinch, I can ask my friend, Ann, to help me out, but I’m “connected” in a lot of ways that others aren’t.  Ann does work for other people, but she gladly teaches others to make and fix their own clothes. She’ll take the money, but she’d also love the time to use for her family, home, or grandchildren.

                Getting back to the obesity epidemic, do you think we just eat too much of all food, or just too much of bad food?  If we are “hardwired” to hold on to weight, to keep us warm and give us energy to function in ancient times, then maybe we just need to “do more,” to use that weight up.  While there are some people who have health issues that make them heavy, there are others who would highly benefit from growing their own food. Not only do they know how it’s raised, they use up calories in the growing, harvesting, storing and cooking it.  If we can walk in and by a high-fat meal, not have to grow it, cook it, or even clean up after it, could that be part of our “weight issue?”

                While these are important parts of “the backbone,” getting back to basics, to me the “backbone,” is our community.  If we are isolated, do we have others to lean on, or to hold up?  If we are integrated into a neighborhood, a family, or a larger community, we have “crutches” to hold us up when things get tough, and we can become the “canes,” for others who need our help.  It makes us both stronger. For some people that community is their church, or their block, their apartment or their town, but what’s wonderful is that if we connect our different communities they grow stronger and deeper.

                Looking at what NCSC is doing I see us as starting a new “backbone,” for our region.  Not only are we encouraging personal interaction, and personal responsibility, we are also connecting those with things to offer with those who need those offerings for their own families.  It’s easy to see in a “food hub,” where farmers grow food and bring it to a central location, where consumers can buy it at a market. But that work may be fairly easy and enjoyable for the shopper, is it the best use of a farmer’s time?  If they are at the market, who’s fixing fences? bringing in the hay? doing the books?  When the market is over, the shopper goes home to eat. The farmer has pack up, drive home, unload, do the evening chores, eat, and then may spend time with family. Or maybe they have to prepare for the next market? They may be bringing in more money, but what kind of shape is the farm in?  What is the state of that farmer’s personal relationships, if they are always making money, but not having any sense of life quality.

                Rural areas don’t have the amenities that cities have, but  cities don’t usually have the amenities that the country does.   NCSC has identified the needs that small town residents need to make a better living, and have a better life, and still protect that rural character that we value so much. If we didn’t value it, we’d move to the city.  NCSC is setting up an intersection of needs  that will eventually be connected by a “spinal column” that brings food and sustainability hubs together.   By working in Central New England, we make outer projects productive, as they can connect with our structure.  This brings opportunities in transportation for some people, more farm time for the farmer, and a greater selection and diversity for the shoppers.

                This country was built on the backs of farmers, small towns and rural people.  They were the ones who ventured into new areas, tested the willingness of the land, and invited others to come join them.  We now have to reach out to each other, and to the urban areas, to get our country strong again. But if that is going to happen, we have to keep water, air and soil healthy, and we have to use those resources wisely.  Bringing that knowledge to new users is part of the job of the “backbone.”  We need to share our knowledge, profit from each other both economically and spiritually, and our nation’s network of citizens will grow strong again. 

                We can’t look for others to do it for us. But we have to look to those who can help us, for help.
There are people who have money AND care about the nation’s resources, both natural and human.  We have to make it possible for us to find us, which unfortunately appears to be “jumping up and down” in a sea of technological media.  High impact exercise can damage joints and spine, what will it do to the “nation’s backbone,” if we have to take our time to jump, instead of using that time to teach, reap and share?

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