At a community input meeting, I met a young journalist from the local university who recently emailed me, and invited me to share my thoughts for an article she is working on about land development and new construction through a lens of environmental impacts. Now, THAT is a topic to kick my mind into high gear if ever there was one!
Her prompt/question was pretty intense, as follows: “I know you are a supporter of the Green New Deal and the sunrise movement so I was wondering, what do you think East Lansing and other communities should be doing to really combat climate change effectively?”
I promised her I would think over how to express my thoughts and then get back to her the next day. Of course, this meant a late-ish night of not being able to shut my brain down as it feverishly composed and re-composed the myriad possibilities of action and expression. But, what else is new? It is rare for me not to have at least some small quadrant of my mind thoroughly occupied in figuring out solutions for all the ills. Being asked to do so is a nice break in terms of externalizing an ultimately well-meaning obsession with fixing everything.
So, here is what I wrote:
I think it will be necessary to reorient our thinking about what progress and community development looks like and really means. The vast potential of the Green New Deal resides in the possibilities opened up if we view our productivity and innovation in terms of the much-needed restoration of our natural lands and wildlife habitats. To show enough humility and realism to value the living earth we are dependent upon, and to let the dwindling natural areas remain and ideally increase, rather than just dig those up and pour more concrete. It would be much better for the construction industry and development businesses to redevelop all those blighted, empty big box stores, as works of community improvement and environmental responsibility. And put on green roofs while you’re at it. Embrace innovative technology, like wind energy kites. Link environmental, civic engineering to the deep need for dignified, meaningful employment that clearly benefits local economies foremost. There are so many possibilities that could satisfy both calls for justice and for economic expansion, if only we can agree that the benefits must be widespread and place-specific, rather than continuing on the path of maximized corporate profits for the distant few.
But most important, the Green New Deal invites us to consider how we can best and most effectively restore the water, soil, plant and animal and insect life we require for any sustained quality of life – to heal this earth and also benefit the many people likely to suffer in body and mind by the toxins and loss of beauty. Envision progress as a literal greening of our surroundings, and trust that we can figure out how to move on from a system based upon treating the earth merely as an expendable source of profits to be mined. We the people can together decide and determine that progress will no longer be measured by a loss of life. We can strive to understand and cultivate stewardship as the restoration of our independence – as a way to unite and rely upon the good work of everyday people to achieve sustainability and a renewed measure of “self” sufficiency.
Of course, I provided this kindly journalism student far too large a quote, but generating written content can come easily once trained to do just that as a Philosopher Doctor of English. And I likely will never tire of thinking up different ways to essentially say we all really need to focus on getting outdoors and cleaning up this mess together. Growing the roots that might actually accomplish the task of saving all.