I’ve been hearing lots of cries approaches to improve the economy and ease the burden on the middle class.  In frustration, I feel like I’m jumping up and down saying “Look here, Look here.”  I’ve decided to stop jumping and  “rebrand” ourselves, so that people can look at our work from a different direction.

Looking at what tomorrow is going to take, I think we need to look back at what succeeded, what is needed and what we are missing today.  That’s a big idea, and one with many answers, but I think cynicism has become too rampant, making it so people can’t see hope unless it lands on their heads.

North Country Sustainability Center, Inc. has looked at the strengths of our region, what are the needs, and what we can do to bridge the two.  We’ve decided that the best way to explain our decision is rather than say “shared facility,” perhaps a “tool box” is a better explanation.

So what tools are we thinking about?  How would they work?  A commercial kitchen is really needed in this area, we also need a place where people can learn to cook, learn to grow, and preserve food for their own families.  Many people are ill at ease with power tools, or even simple hand tools, so a place where knowledgeable instructors can teach their skills to newcomers is also needed.

Rural areas are no less fans of culture than those in urban areas, but they often prefer to stay closer to home, and don’t have the income for a venture into the city.  Providing exhibition space, studios, and facilities to screen films, or enjoy some new plays, would be welcomed in rural areas, as long as it affordable and considerate of rural needs, such as driving in snow, or timing around family requirements.

There are other skills that will come in handy in the future; being able to sew your own clothes, or repairing purchased ones, judging high quality goods, creating useful gifts and garments using knitting, crocheting, or may be starting with raw wool and creating a finished woven piece.

The nation is full of people who have these skills, but many of them are aging, and not in the same social circles as the younger people who are looking to learn those skills.  Providing a “Sustainability Toolbox,” in one location gives people a place to learn to learn, or teach, or to discover how they can apply these same ideas in their own region.

There is a crucial tool that is perhaps the most difficult to master – cooperation.  This tool builds community, which will be sorely needed in the future.  Rather than focus on “the one with the most toys wins,” what if we looked at the motto, “the toy with the most users – wins?”  Rather than create a larger carbon footprint, and utility bill with 24 families all having their facilities, what would it cost to have 24 families sharing a kitchen, or a classroom, or an arena?  Some projects are solitary, but others are simpler and more enjoyable when working side by side with others.

This will require a shift in thinking, but it’s not a new idea, just one that has become endangered over the years.   Looking back in history, it was community that allowed people to survive in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in the mid-west,  on the westward expansion and in settling areas throughout the world. It is not quite a lost art, but it does need some polishing up. That’s an important part of our NCSC toolkit – to keep in mind that this will be a shared set of tools, and decisions are made with different goals than simply “the bottom line.”

But along with this project of people cooperating, we are also looking for a facility that will help people learn to work with their dogs, their pets, and the earth.  By doing this, we lower stress, keep people active and healthy, and work to restore the planet as much as a region can. We also reconnect children with animals and nature, facilitate friendships and support small businesses that support 4H, small farms and dog sports.

Want to help stock the toolbox?  We’re launching a new fundraiser in the region, but if you’d like to participate in the “cyber world,” please send $12 through PayPal at Pat@northcountrysustain.org.  Make sure to send your address, and we’ll send you a decal that you can show how you are helping to build the “tools for tomorrow.”  Your donation will help us succeed, and we’ll show others that it can be done, and that you were smart enough to see the vision.  You are, aren’t  you? Visit www.northcountrysustain.org to see what we’re working on.