This is more of a personal rant than a professional statement, so bear with me.

Many years ago, when I first moved back into the “civilization” from a very small Catskill town to greater Boston, I was asked at a conference what I foresaw the future to be like.  My feeling was that there would be a division between urban and rural that made them into two different worlds, with little understanding between them.  I am amazed at how this feeling of separation has grown over the years.  It doesn’t bring anger with it, just frustration that there are those in power who decide which lifestyle is more preferable, when in reality it is those very “urban lifestyles” that are most in danger in the world we face for tomorrow.

With all the “urban homesteader” and “urban farmer” push, which I think is a great idea, we seem to be missing some of the realities of rural life.  You can’t raise grass fed beef in the city. While people can raise enough vegetables for their families, there is not enough room in the cities, to raise sufficient fruits.  And no city can be full self-sustaining in water.  The water that feeds the cities comes from hills, and rivers far away from that urban area. The way that the cities treat those “vacation spots,” will eventually come back to visit them, with lower water quality, and higher bills.

There is a symbiotic relationship between city dwellers and rural folks, but neither is more important than the others.  Suburbanites, speaking as one who grew up as one, usually get wrapped up in the “urban population,” though in reality they rarely face the same problems as true city people. While city residents face food deserts and a lack of options, those who live in the suburbs are usually blessed with multiple choices in stores, and sufficient space for a garden or community open space.   Rural residents are blessed with open spaces, usually fresh, clean water, but making a living in the country means having access to services and markets. Those things are in severe shortage in rural areas, hence the symbiosis.

But no one group is expendable, and that is where we in the country are getting lost.  We have the benefit of technology that didn’t exist a generation ago, though many of us lack the infrastructure to use it to its highest level.  While things are improving there are still many areas of the nation where there is no high speed internet access, let alone wireless connections.  Those of us who live in the country need to use whatever connectivity we have to build a larger community, so that we can speak over, at least as loud, as the media centered in the larger cities in the nation.

Here in my town we are now facing the potential loss of our fresh water, our wells and our way of life so that Big Energy can sell more natural gas, not necessarily to this country.  Natural gas may be “local” in that it is below this continent, but it’s not found here. It’s not found easily, and it is MUCH more damaging to the environment than carbon emissions.  Those of us in rural America don’t want to contribute to the destruction of our neighbors, even if they live in another state.  For us, the natural gas pipeline will bring the hydro-fracked gas from Pennsylvania.  They want to bury the pipeline many feet down, from 2-30 feet depending upon which town they talk to.  This will be through the least developed part of Massachusetts, a part of the state most people don’t even think about.  Why? because the Northern Tier of Massachusetts is primarily granite, and to bury the pipeline means blasting for many, many miles. This will break radon and arsenic deposits into wells that been clean, dry up other wells, and possibly contaminate public water supplies. The herbicide sprayed on this pipeline will certainly affect our wildlife, our water quality and eventually, every one’s food supply, as the herbicide also effects honeybees which we all rely on for our fruits and vegetables.   We NEED to get people to care. We farmers and rural folks need to work together to bring attention to our contributions, our problems, and how important WE are.   By speaking up for ourselves we are speaking up for the planet, as it has no voice that the people understand.  (Personally I think earthquakes, floods and storms speak volumes, but obviously the media has yet to hear the message.)

The rules that govern our farms are made by people in the city who have had  “farming lessons” from the likes of Monsanto and Cargill.  Our “health” decisions are made by those who don’t understand hydro-geology or basic biology. Instead they are taught to fear nature and “control=good.”  Our environmental regulations are created by people who have come from Big Energy and private universities.   We have few voices in power that understand simple science. Instead we have many decision-makers (I refuse to call them ‘deciders’) who  are afraid of science, reliant upon guidance from “the informati,” and are more concerned with control than with common sense.

The poem that I mentioned, posted elsewhere on this blog, mentions the Quabbin Towns, a few small towns in central Massachusetts that were literally emptied out and flooded, “for the common good,” of a water supply for Greater Boston. The lives and work of those people were no less important than those who receive water from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, yet they had no voice loud enough to save their towns’ lives.  Rather than recognize the “Limits to Growth,” that resources define, our culture has decided that resources are needed for only some areas, not others.  That is not true.

North Country Sustainability Center, Inc. is one of the places where common sense will be nurtured.  We want to provide resources that people need to make their farms viable, their lives more productive and their families’ better off.  Having a place where people can come together to share their concerns, find support and bring a voice to the rural areas.  This blog is not about NCSC as much as it is about giving rural areas a voice and a future, before we get lost in the “common good,” for everyone else, but us.