“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. ” These were the words written by J. M. Barrie to describe how to reach Neverland in his book, Peter Pan.  We don’t need a NeverLand. We need a ForeverLand.  A place that’s “ a beacon in the fog of lost hopes” that people can focus on to find a better world.  It won’t be a utopia, because that is not feasible. It will not be perfect, because it will be run by humans.  Mistakes will happen, but they will create growth, but only if it gets out the “idea seed.”

Our world, particularly America, faces so many problems; environmental damage, financial inequality,  the wealthy dominate out government to the detriment of everyone else, and many people are nearly despondent at the powerless they feel.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. We have power, if we use the Constitution as we were taught about it, to take it back. To do that we need to understand and take on the role of citizens, accepting that it comes with responsibility, and work. We need to stop blaming “the other party,” and become a unified force for a fairer nation. A nation that cares about its impact on other nations, and on its residents and citizens.  Rather than worry so much about protecting our “individual rights,” we need to work to protect “the rights of every American.”

But that role begins with getting connected and informed.  We need to re-meet our neighbors, share the knowledge each of us has, and reconnect with others who can either fill in the gaps we have, or help us to fill them with skills and experience.  That means connecting rural and urban populations, beyond “Yankee” magazine or “Field and Stream.”  Rural life is not utopian, nor is it ignorant. It is simply different, and vital, if we are going to continue to feed our country with healthy food.  Not all food is created equal, and while we need industrial farms to feed the massive cities that dot our nation, those farms can be more sustainable, IF we make it worth their while.  That means paying fair prices for their food.   Fair does not mean cheap. Consider the amount of time, work and energy that has gone into that food. Would you want to be paid a slave wage for that work if you were the one doing it? Probably not.

Looking at our challenges in the future, it can seem overwhelming. Certainly worthy of rolling up the driveway and becoming a hermit, but that won’t help.  Everyone needs someone else, even if it’s just for company to keep us civil.  That interaction helps keep us human, and helps us develop our best selves. Whether it’s by teaching, or learning, helping or observing, expanding our brains usually expands our hearts as well.  Like Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, many of us have hearts that are “two sizes too small.” We’ve become so scared and worried that we have forgotten how wonderful it can feel to help someone else, or marvel at someone else’s generosity.

Civilization is marked by the art and artifacts that we leave behind. Do we want to leave our descendants a world of wire grates and pavement, or a world that is vibrant, clean and open?  To make that happen we need to foster each other’s creativity and gifts; celebrate the contributions made by each of us, and see how we can develop that generosity and kindness to young people through integrating agriculture, the environment, arts and politics into everyday life.

So how do we find this “ForeverLand?”  There needs to be more than one, because everyone needs to have something like it in their area.  But no two ForEverlands will ever be the same.  They should complement each other, build on each other and connect each other.  But they need to start somewhere. That is what we’re trying to do here in North Central Massachusetts.

This “ForeverLand,” will grow out of the rubble of old mills, empty houses, and communities that have been left behind by urbanization.  We’re not complaining. We like our rural life, or our small city lives, but we can be that “beacon in the fog,” if people will help us.

We have natural treasures of fresh water, clean air, and open space, but we are threatened by energy companies that believe that remoteness is their opportunity to bury a natural gas pipeline through our aquifers, granite and wetlands.  We have senior citizens who remember recovering from the Depression and World War II, and retain the disappearing skills of canning, carpentry, and farming.
We have open space to help those who want to learn self-reliance, and to share our animals and knowledge with those who need them.  We have the skill set to help our neighbors, and the nation, learn to adjust to whatever the climate and society have to offer.  We embrace technology, old and new, but realize that there needs to be a “knowledge Fountain,” where people can learn from each other, find those with like minds, and spread the word of self-reliance and community involvement.

Please, if you see the value of these “ForeverLands,” help us make the first one come to life. Purchase a Sustainability Badge for $1.00, a Local Link of your choice for $1.00, or give whatever you can afford to help us. Be a Revivor of tarnished skills, so we can polish them up for the future.  Help us celebrate community, creativity, compassion and cooperation by giving to North Country Sustainability Center, and tell your friends about our “ForeverLand.”  Please and thank you.