We need to clean up the planet, if we’re going to survive as a species.  Most would agree with that. Which part do we start with?  Should we address the oceans? Yup, that will do it. The rest of the planet will wait while we clean up the Gyre, decrease the water temperature, adjust the pH, restock the fisheries, and rebuild the coral reefs.

What? It won’t work.  You mean that we can’t just dump ice in the ocean without affecting the salination level? The coral reefs will grow back as soon as we raise the pH, right?  Maybe we’d better work on another issue all together. Perhaps the oceans are too big to tackle right now.  Let’s focus on the poles.

The less of the polar ice caps is something we can surely address.  What would happen if we just stretched a bunch of plastic over the existing glaciers and bergs, and put  some big refrigeration units in the water?  Can we simulate the reflective white surface by floating Styrofoam? The polar bears can just float on those, can’t they?

It’s important that each of the aspects of our environment, our community and our nation have people pay attention to them, but we need to change the ways we live on the planet. I’m not judging anyone. I’m just saying…..  If we shop for our food from our neighborhood farms, guess what impact we can have:  we cut down on carbon input by minimizing how much we drive.  We promote carbon sequestration by paying the farmer to turn his carbon/methane contributions into soil and plant production. Supporting sustainable/organic farmers gives a lesson to the giant agri-businesses that people understand the way farms should be run.  Economically, for every $10 you spend at a local farmer’s market, an average of $7.80 stays in the local economy (American Farmland Trust, 2014.) Farmland also saves tax dollars as there is much less needed to utilize that land, as compared to having a house or business on that space.

The simple act of preserving your own food allows you choices in what type of food you eat, what additives you allow into your diet. It also lowers the overall impact on the planet by cutting down on the amount of water, transportation costs, the availability of food year round, if you are willing to learn to do this yourself.

It is important that we learn more about all the problems that our planet and our culture, faces.  But it’s much less overwhelming if you learn in the context of how you can make the situation better.  If you know you are not alone in that effort, it’s much easier to learn more, as that knowledge is combined with fun. Self-reliance gives people choices that they don’t currently have. From my experience the more people learn about how they can make things better, the more they try to do so.

These skills, from canning to sewing, debating to darning, building a shed to burying a root cellar, were once common knowledge.  People worked more in their day, but at the same time they “worked out.” Our ancestors would probably laugh at us for the amount of time we spend at gyms, at salons, or on the road, just trying to be relaxed and healthy.

But the places that allow this to happen are hard to find. Thankfully there is a growing number of community farms and gardens, but places that teach practical skills, civil discourse, citizen engagement, have mainly disappeared.  If a young person wants to dedicate their lives to culinary arts, fashion or politics, they have schools and studios to study from.  But for the everyday citizen who wants to be comfortable and involved in a wide variety of self-reliance and community skills, they are on their own.

That is what we’re trying to do; to provide that “go to” place for people to come learn, and to teach and share their knowledge. Our neighbors want a place to learn more about current issues, to see documentaries and discuss important topics. We as a culture need a place where people feel safe to disagree, because they  will be respected, even if the conversation comes from two opposite ends of the issue.

But for nearly 5 years we’ve struggled to make this happen. Repeatedly we’ve been told to “narrow our focus,” but like with the environment, which aspect of “living here,” do you concentrate on? How do you nurture integration of learning and action, if you don’t integrate in the education?  Please join us making this new/old approach come to life.  Give a few dollars, if you can. Spread the word and ask your friends to give.  If you are someone who watched your grand parents or parents “put things up for the winter,” build what needed to be built, make what needed to be made, you know how important it is to have that option.  Visit www.northcountrysustain.org and see what giving form works best for you.

We are also kicking off “¢hange Day,” a national movement to engage people in their communities to make the necessary changes to have a more sustainable future. For us it’s a collection of change from the participants, and a Puppet Parade, to illustrate that we are not someone else’s puppets; we can control our own lives.  Host a Change Day event in  your area. Give to the project in your area. If you’ll send $10 for an individual or $25 for an organization, we’ll send you a copy of the logo and list your activity on our website http://changeday.wordpress.com.  This year is a dress rehearsal because next year it falls on July 4, 2015.  Change Day is the first Saturday of July, so this year it’s July 5, 2014. Why? Because it was with skills like the ones we encourage that built this country. We need to take the sense of a United group to turn our country back to the level of sustainability that it once enjoyed.  Please spread the word and help us build the “¢hange Movement,”  and the NCSC Hearth.  Thank you.