I’ve had some really interesting conversations with people lately. They give me a look into what we have to do in order to create a more sustainable future.  Somehow we have to take away any idea that individuals are to “blame” for the conditions that we are facing.  Yes, global warming was caused by humans, but most of the time individual people didn’t Choose to raise the earth’s temperature.  There may have been some people in board rooms who made those decisions, but the average person on the street wasn’t given an informed decision to make.

When we look at our current economic situation, it wasn’t that any particular person on the street that chose to decimate credit ratings, destroy retirements and cause an upheaval in the nation’s finances.  Certainly there were people in board rooms who made decisions without regard to the ramifications.
But for most people they were just doing things that they had always done, and things worked out fine.

But were they fine?  There does come to be a point where people need to look at the road they are on.  Over time we heard voices from environmentalists, from scientists, from economists, who said “This is not going to last.  We’re headed for a problem.”  But because looking down the road was scary, many people chose to just look right in front of them, or focus on where they were, and avoid looking down the way.  Now we are faced with the reality that we have traveled down the road of time long enough that our “here,” is in a problem place, and “down the road,” is pretty rocky and developed; somewhat like a dirt road that few people have traveled, but it’s going to rough on our suspension as we move forward.

But in order to move on toward this new future, we do have to shore up our “suspensions.” That means strengthening local ties so that we can lean on each other.  We need to look at what “linkages” need support, and see what we can do to strengthen those joints so they hold up to the bumps.  We need to look back at what was successful in the past, but realize where that led.  If we built our culture by cutting trees, do we have any trees left? or are we now “tree free,” like Haiti?  We can’t afford to sugar coat those lessons, either. If they worked in some ways, where did they fail?  How can we adapt those practices using the lessons that we’ve learned along the way.  How can we combine our new communication technology to support those reinforcements.

To have a sustainable future we need to value what was done correctly, make adjustments to those mistakes that we made, and make sure that we build a new road with a positive goal down the road. It’s not just about getting down the road that matters. If we are going to thrive in this new future, we have to determine a shared vision, and make sure we keep that goal in mind, along with the lessons we need to have learned along the way.

“It’s never been that way,” needs to be a mantra.  If it’s never been that way, then it’s never been tried. If it’s never been that way, why not?  What could be threatened by that notion?  What is scary about that future?  Is it scarier than where we are now?  I’m not saying that we should all because mindless lemmings, on the contrary. We need to be very mindful of what we’re doing, looking at the hurdles, consequences and benefits, but we need to not be afraid of hard work, something different, or a dirt road. Those were all proven tools that got us here.  They are the way to a sustainable future, but we need to get past those doubts, and our desire to stay comfortable on a sinking ship.  Sustainability is not about a more pleasant present. It’s about a safer, more reasonable future, for next week, next year and next decade….  What do we do to get people to see that?

Follow and help us if you can at North Country Sustainability Center.

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