Creating a sustainable future for us all hinges upon reconnecting people with others and with the nature around them.  Our actions do not only affect us, but they also create a change in the life of those around us.  From loud music, to growling dogs, to rudeness, people need to recognize that we all share the planet, the air around us, the very space that we live in. I grew up in an ideal community, in the Midwest.  My parents were fortunate enough to buy a house in a young neighborhood back in the 1950’s, and many houses were built around them as our family matured. This allowed my sister and I grew up with several sets of “proxy grandparents.”  While our own grandparents lived hours away, the neighbors looked out for us, watched us in our adventures and provided safe harbors in the event that we were ever hurt or scared.

Now that we have grown, my parents still own the same house.  When my mother passed away, the entire neighborhood showed up for the funeral, the calling hours, or to make sure that Dad is all right. My sister and both farm, in different states, but both of us live many hours away from Dad. We are blessed to have caring neighbors to look in on him.  In our lives, though the houses are close together, there has always been an understanding of respect and privacy, though there is no “code of conduct,” provided by the Welcome Wagon.

One of my first jobs in my career was as a teacher for an urban school on a visit to a rural area.  These children were very insecure in the woods, but when brought into “town,” they had no concept of privacy in an open area. They were so enamored of the open space that they considered front porches as play areas, driveways as safe travel areas and that any items in the backyards were open for their view.  Our conversations that day showed me that their idea of community and neighborhood conduct was very different from that which I grew up with.  I asked the students if they would walk into any person’s apartment without knocking, and many said yes.  Some said they would knock, or that they would avoid neighbors they didn’t know, but that the hallways were fair game for play. It took several attempts to get them to understand that a front yard was like an apartment door.  They finally understood what trespassing was, and were more respectful of the belongings of other people.

In recent decades our society has become more focused on the individual’s need than on the needs of the community.  Voting is now something that “gets in the way of a busy day,” instead of an opportunity to be heard.  We have completely lost the role of the environment in our lives, and now look at it as an inconvenience on our way to personal economy.  However, if there is no air, no water, no safety, no trust, then we do not have a society, or a community.  We only have a horde of scared individuals fearing that they will lose their belongings, their homes, or their lives. 

We need to look at how that culture of community has broken down. It has not happened everywhere, but it is not as common as it once was.  We now see it after catastrophes, such as tornadoes, storms, wildfires or bombings.  But planning as a community, and building that sense of connection, makes it easier to avoid these problems.  Finances are tight. Lives are precious.  If we are going to use our resources as wisely as we can, we need to make sure that all groups feel welcome to the conversation.  Planning needs to consider all abilities, use forethought and consider what is “needed,” not what is wanted.

How does all this work together with farming, practicality and the environment?  I have learned through the years that experience with people of all ages, involving pets and animals in education, and keeping nature in the conversation helps build that sense of community, compassion and responsibility.

Where did this get lost?  Because you can’t make money off of these concepts. You can sell pet food or toys, but there’s no economic benefit directly from teaching these skills.  Our news has become a voice for advertising. Our television programming sells items through product placement, but rarely promotes these positive solutions to a problem.

But we are seeing this community starting to re-emerge. From the sharing economy to films like “Detropia,” and others like it, are showing innovative, positive approaches to building community and getting people to invest personally, not just financially, into their community.   Our plan at NCSC is to create shared spaces, tools and equipment, such as community access, commercial kitchen, cannery, and creamery.  Sewing areas that allow people to learn and teach, and start new businesses if they want to.  Studio and exhibit space for artists.  Training and showing spaces for animals and shared workshops for carpentry and other activities.  

We are at a point in time when those who have the self-reliance skills of sewing, canning, building, and farm work are aging out of our lives. Simultaneously we have people coming of age that want and need that knowledge, but do not connections with those who can teach them. Building community at NCSC, and a sustainable future, means putting these populations together, with the necessary tools to work with. Using these tools, we can revive the community of Central New England, and show others how it works.

 If you agree with this type of Reviving,  please support us a donation to North Country Sustainability Center, Inc.  Donations of $5 will be thanked with a postcard placard to put in your car, your window or on your store shelves.  A $10 donation will get you a choice of either a bumper sticker or a banner, both of which are illustrated below.  A $30 donation will get a 2 sided sign to put on your yard, or in your place of business  showing that you care about reviving our planet, our economy, our community and self-reliance.  Please visit www.northcountrysustain.org/Revivor.html for more information.  

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