Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the nation’s favorite movies.  We all got caught up in Indy’s adventures to recover lost relics. The movie moved some people to open their eyes to “antiquities.” For others it was just a action packed roller coaster. I know that I loved it for both reasons, and more.  But creating a stronger future can feel a bit like that roller coaster, but instead of incredible high action, it tends to be a downward ride.  People live on a level playing field and then some fact, or news story, wakes them up to the negative things that go on in the world. Many fall off a cliff of despair, wondering how anything can make that issue have a brighter future. There are so many things that we can’t change – the peace between nations, the growing rate of crime.  But for other things, there are things we can each do.  They are not obvious noble actions. They are small noble ones.  Instead of using a paper towel, use a washable one.  Rather than driving to the corner market, walk it. It is those tiny actions, multiplied by millions of people taking those actions, and more, that drive things up beyond “the everyday level.” 

Most people feel despair until the following morning, and after a good night’s sleep they go on about their regular lives.  Others manifest a short term change.  Still others create lasting change for themselves, and a few share that change with others and promote more “tiny noble steps(TNS).”  The more of those TNS that people do, the faster we can climb beyond the every day, and up into the cleaner, brighter future.

Nowadays people are very concerned about the newest technology, thinking that technology must be digital.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  The first stick in the soil that planted a seed was technology.  John Deere’s metal moldboard plow was a technological breakthrough.  These were giant steps toward a better future for their inventors and those who came afterward.  While technology is meant to ease the burden of work, it isn’t necessarily a way to avoid work entirely.  Since the advent of money and especially since the Industrial Revolution we have used the technology of currency to ease our burden but purchasing the work of someone else.  In those days, because people knew how much work it took to make a dress, or build a house, they were willing to save for it, and care for it well.  That is not the case now, for most Americans.  We want the cheapest clothes, the least expensive house with the greatest “bling,” and we don’t want to pay a fair price for it.  We can afford to replace it, so we don’t care for it very well. Each of those mindless purchases leads to another giant slide on the “existence roller coaster.”  For example, according to data from the EPA and compiled by USAgain, the average American family discards 177 pounds of fabric, either as clothing, towels or fabric, each year.  Given that much of our clothing now contains a high percentage of polyester and nylon, those pounds just sit in landfills. They do not decompose. Even cotton takes a long time to break down, especially if it’s blended with synthetics.   How many of those clothes could have been repaired? Reused by someone else? Or repurposed in some other way?  Did we promote slave wages for children to work in sweat shops by paying that low price?

Repairing clothing or furniture, preparing meals from locally raised food, walking or recycling are all TNS’s.  But so is opening the door for someone, keeping voices down on a cell phone conversations, waiting patiently in line instead of pushing or complaining.  These are all TNS’s that make for a more pleasant day, and promote other TNS’s by other people. They are also “lost treasures,” that are not beyond recovery. If we’re really going to take a more pleasant roller coast ride, with more ups than downs, we need to find ways to amplify TNS into BNS, Big Noble Steps.  Instead of each of us having our own private anything, sharing common things, such as playgrounds, pools, theaters, and markets we magnify those TNS.
By enabling those with skills to share those skills easily with others, whether their farmers, seamstresses or therapists, we really take giant steps toward a BNS world.  That’s what we’re doing at North Country Sustainability Center.  We’re working to create a place where people can teach, learn and promote their work and keeping it “common” for everyone. It doesn’t take Indiana Jones to find those treasures. Each of us has something to offer. What is your TNS today? What about tomorrows?  Can you help us make NCSC into a BNS?  I hope so.