Transition Whatcom

Jan Spencer: Whatcom County Redefines Prosperity (A Letter from the Future)

As we prepare for the Great Unleashing and think about the beginning steps for developing an Energy Descent Plan for Whatcom County, it's time to envision the future we want to see for Whatcom County. 


Borrowed from an original article by Jan Spencer and Samantha Chirillo, edited for Whatcom County by Kate Clark. (Please join us March 5th at RE Sources Sustainable Living Center for Jan Spencer's presentation on Global Trends - Local Choices. )


 

What might a letter from the future look like like if it were sent in, say, 2030, after developing Transition Whatcom and after numerous smaller communities and neighborhoods started their own Initiatives, encouraging local leaders to make forward-­looking, sustainable decisions? A visioning experiment might yield the following results:
  

“Dear Citizens of Whatcom County 2010,
Here are the best words and encouragement from the future we have to offer.  By mid-2010, we admitted that the economic disarray confronting the nation and Whatcom County was not a recession. It was the end of a period of history — economic growth as we knew it was ending. Combined with a changing climate, erratic energy supplies and the natural environment in steep decline, we admitted it was time to redefine our cultural and economic needs.


“By late 2010, with the implementation of Transition Whatcom, leaders from government, education, unions, faith communities, nonprofit groups, business, neighborhoods and Grange halls converged to begin to articulate what we will call the Whatcom County Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP). It coordinated both urban and rural means of production for a clear and ambitious campaign to meet our county’s important needs, using sources closer to home in a way the environment could sustain. “The first part of the plan created an emergency preparedness strategy that addressed a range of contingencies such as transportation disruptions, food and energy shortages, floods and economic instability. These contingency plans proved their value much sooner than most thought possible.


“Next, Transition Whatcom identified a surprisingly large and diverse number of civic assets — prototypes already in place — that fit perfectly with the goals of the County Plan. Localized Transitional Initiatives began springing up almost overnight and brought together businesses, schools and curricula, urban land use concepts,neighborhood projects, city and county programs, innovative approaches to food production, energy ideas and ad hoc arrangements of all kinds. Most people at first had no idea all this creativity was happening, but once they learned of the activity community residents from all walks of life began to work together on the EDAP goals with great enthusiasm.
 
“The plan set out to expand and support these prototypes with policy initiatives and unprecedented budget shifts, boosted by several organizations and campaigns encouraging residents to “Buy Local” when possible and practical. Transportation, food production, environmental protection and restoration, urban land use, education, neighborhoods and manufacturing all received attention that led to impressive progress toward our goals.
 
“Vital to the plan’s success was a public education campaign that clearly explained the goals of the TIs, and how and why we were making these changes. Media, schools, civic organizations,professional networks and neighborhoods all put out the message. It was during this time that we became aware of the power of community cohesion.
 
“By 2011, suburbia ended its historic expansion as new policies placed a priority on creating urban villages. Some were new, but most were redeveloped from existing commercial zones, often built on increasingly empty parking lots. Now they are places for employment, housing, shops, offices and culture — accessible to nearby residents by foot or bike. 

“The plan was visionary in rural areas, too. Agriculture shifted to food, fiber and limited bio-fuel, wind, and solar energy for local use. Small towns revitalized with new residents and businesses that sprang up to serve local markets. Whatcom County now feeds itself, although our diet is simple, while climate change imposes ongoing concerns with food production.


“In 2011, pressure on the federal government led to new programs that created thousands of jobs, restoring the forests to health by removing logging roads, planting diverse species of trees and removing obsolete dams. We now see the benefits of this labor: improved forest biodiversity, better soil conservation, clean drinking water and increasing wild salmon in waterways. We enjoy nearby recreation, more native food and medicines from local forests with former mill towns perking up with new economies that protect the forests. Preservation remains important.


“Public health has improved in many ways. Exercise is a normal part of life. Junk food is a memory; our food is fresh. We focus on disease prevention, not repair, and every neighborhood has a community clinic.


“The Great Reskilling began and numerous organizations, including public schools began to teach practical, closer-to-home skills such as resource conservation, permaculture, food science and preservation, repair of all kinds, effective communication and service to the community.


“Regional industrial coordination means the Northwest produces most of the manufactured products we need. An extensive rail network in the region, supplemented with biogas buses, moves products and people. The new transportation choices occurred because of changes in transportation policies about 2011, as money destined for new highways was redirected to rail systems.


“We have seen unimaginable changes. They have been challenging, but we are becoming a more compassionate culture. No one is hungry or sleeps under a bridge. We are more inclusive and multigenerational in everyday life. Many people live in co-ops and community housing that resembles and functions like extended families. These positive social relationships measurably benefit our quality of life.
 
“Many jobs and products of earlier years are no longer with us, yet we enjoy diverse benefits from these changes. We value our new social cohesion more than people living in 2010 can probably understand.


“We have redefined prosperity.”

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I love this!!!
I read it and felt inspired and delighted. I thought "We can do this"..."We ARE doing this"

Toward the end of reading it I was anticipating something that wasn't there. Where is the celebration and creative expression through dance and music and theater?....

Ok I'll add my version:

Instead of television, malls, bars and gambling casinos, every community and neighborhood has a hall or firepit around which people gather nightly to share music, storytelling and dance, and much more. Everyone creates rather than consumes entertainment, re-creation of connections, soul and heart full expressions.

People gather in woods, gardens, and parks to create and enact rites of passage, healing and celebration ceremonies that facilitate their transitions life, and give form to spirit.

Ahhh now that feels more complete.
Very nice Angela, I like your addition!

This reminds me of when Julian Darley (former director of the Post Carbon Institute) was speaking about Relocalized Music and Dance. He reminded us that the word "community" comes from the latin word that means "sharing with." See mp3 attachment below (less than 2 minute clip).

Also, Richard Heinberg has written an article on Post Carbon Aesthetics (http://www.energybulletin.net/21466.html) and Nalla Walla has a great essay on "what role Art will play in the New Communities many of us are working so hard to design and implement": http://sustainablebellingham.org/wiki/wikka.php?wakka=ReclaimingThe...

More articles I've collected on Culture and Community can be found here:
http://sustainablebellingham.org/wiki/wikka.php?wakka=CultureAndCom...
Attachments:

Hi David:

I am currently in Vancouver B.C. area and recently posted this on craigslist about ''community'' before finding out about TW - thought you might find it interesting.

http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/rds/grp/2533979076.html

I found the mp3 attachment interesting.  It is interesting how more and more people are rediscovering some gems including music genres that have been outcast to the fringes of our society by the profit imperatives of the decaying economic system.  I suggest that a revival in ''traditional'' folk music is long overdue.  This is music and dance performed by acoustic instruments by authentic often village / small town folk in group setting with themes based on often rural cooperative and agricultural or nature-based motives, often no identifiable ''composer'' or individual taking credit - i.e., no commercial motive.  I hope TW members incorporate this into their lives as by its very social and international nature traditional folk music would be what I consider a perfect cultural reflection as well as reinforcement of the ideals expressed by the international movement.  

 

I am certainly not old-fashioned but I believe we should revive what we find of value.  And then modify it in an organic way (with an eye on the sustainability of the values our modifications represent) locally to represent our spice variety of little corner of the globe.  This approach would work not only for our local economy (mindful of our local labor and resources) but in all other interrelated branches (including culture / arts and music). 

 

In the 60's traditional folk dance music groups gained much ground but gradually faded away.  However, there are still small groups getting together regularly for this purpose including here in Vancouver (I also know of some in Seattle, not sure about Bellingham).  

 

In a search for a healthier sustainable society I believe we should look for a move away from the current ''division of labor'' which has left most of us as often helpless and clueless spectators in various aspects of a healthy life with ''integrity'' (i.e., integral, holistic).  In the realm of culture that means we should all practice art, music, dance, etc. (but only after we adapt a more integrated holisitic economy that allows and encourages us such practice), and also adopt practical forms that would fit and enhance such lifestyle.  I believe the ''traditional folk dance and music" would be a great step in this more sustainable path. 


David MacLeod said:

Very nice Angela, I like your addition!

This reminds me of when Julian Darley (former director of the Post Carbon Institute) was speaking about Relocalized Music and Dance. He reminded us that the word "community" comes from the latin word that means "sharing with." See mp3 attachment below (less than 2 minute clip).

Also, Richard Heinberg has written an article on Post Carbon Aesthetics (http://www.energybulletin.net/21466.html) and Nalla Walla has a great essay on "what role Art will play in the New Communities many of us are working so hard to design and implement": http://sustainablebellingham.org/wiki/wikka.php?wakka=ReclaimingThe...

More articles I've collected on Culture and Community can be found here:
http://sustainablebellingham.org/wiki/wikka.php?wakka=CultureAndCom...

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