Whew, that’s over. Unbelievable to some that they would ever have the opportunity to vote for, or agin’, a non-white person for president of the United States; just as unthinkable to many others that they would not and that a candidate’s race has anything to do with their qualifications. It’s a handsome dividing line, really. While a slice of the former uses their last rations of gasoline to fell mature trees across the entrances to hillbilly havens/gated enclaves across the country, the rest of us have a hell of a lot of work to do.
Liberalism in Ascendance: It will be far easier to embrace what we mean by sustainability when we can, as now, begin to separate our red state past from our “green” state future. Obama’s election should not be taken as a respite, but a call to arms. The boss is back in the office this morning, so roll up your sleeves, tell the truth about what’s been going on, and begin to address the consequences. Every time we crow about the GDP or worry about a Consumer Price Index that doesn’t count the price of food or energy, our common sense ratio takes a nosedive. It’s time to replace that worn-out fainting couch with a yoga mat. We’ve chosen a higher standard where we don’t need to feed ourselves a bunch of hooey about how great we are… we just need to feed ourselves, and our neighbors. It is a point of strength that we identify the e pluribus with the unum. James Baldwin said that America’s future can only be as bright as that of the black man’s. Here’s to that, my brother.
Calling All Entrepreneurs: The business of saving the Earth is, in many circles, still premised on someone making a great deal of money or else the whole thing fails. But this isn’t about saving a giant blue sphere somewhere. It’s about a million little steps taken in new directions. Derivatives are for suckers, and credit default swaps are a fraud. For us it will be best to figure out where the train is going to come into town and plan accordingly. Start an umbrella stand or design a car for visitors to rent that uses no gas. A lot of the momentum we have been waiting for about light/high speed rail will be self-fulfilling prophecy when we begin to expect it, get impatient and start demanding it.
Human-Scale Design: Our built environment is a fiasco, no other way to put it. Whether it is the distance you have to drive to the grocery store or what you see on your way out there, our brand of progress has been sour for the heart and bad for the soul. As remnants of the colonial era, we at least retain some of the features of a time when people built towns to live in – things we can’t say about much of our country west of the Mississippi. But walking where you need to go, or bringing your mule to town, necessitated certain elements we would do well to keep in mind as we deign to live closer to the sources for our sustenance. Reprogram your GPS navigators to peg good fishing holes and bad infields.
Minding the Store: Local hustle must begin to drive the global bustle. For too long, the situation has been reversed as we’ve been slaking our thirst for a global vision – a global reach – which has given rise to profound myopia about the future. And when all you’re seeing up close looks the same, you can’t feel your way around. There is a compelling arc along the continuum of how regions formerly distinguished themselves and the extent to which they no longer do, having exchanged their unique identities for that of the same 29 restaurant franchises and retail outlets. This symmetry of local demise parallels the greater, over-leveraged living on less than we want but more than we need. Have you ever seen a picture postcard of a snow covered strip of chain stores and factory outlets? We’re not as ironical as we think, but the meaning of low prices has begun to sink in; the way to wean one’s self from them is to consider them in their entirety.
Slowing Down as We Speed Up: Forty years of supply-side panaceas and deregulation, stoking fear and casting national security as a wedge issue – what kind of patriotism is that? The methods by which we have informed our futures have been the products of board rooms and a single bottom line. No abject lesson survives the effort to speak on behalf of history. So much of what we’ve been feeding ourselves – food, ‘culture,’ medicine, information, propaganda – has made us sick. We need a palliative. Green still means go, as in out on a date or jump in a lake. The water will refresh you; be the star in your own reality show.
The myth that America is hopelessly divided would be a luxury even if it were true. There is a way to meld our modern lifestyles with simpler living – it’s called You’ve Got to Want To – we’ve just taken the long way around. Forty years in the desert is a nice, if already taken, metaphor. And we’ve merely elected new management, which we needed, not a Moses, which we did not. Management’s job is to loosen up capital and stimulate the markets, seduce the workers and trim the fat. Our workers are frigid and our belts are wearing thinned and cracked at the added notches; markets are people trading things they made and capital is an old world adjective that always precedes an idea. Take the hope from what just happened, form into something that will last and give it away. The holidays are just around the corner, and I’ve been hearing the bells since Wednesday last.
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