by Jennifer Tillman —
It may take a little while, but people will catch on. Soon enough, our society will realize that change is necessary, and sustainable living will be seen as mainstream. This generation will be the one to understand that humans have a niche in the world that they cannot exploit. We will find balance.
After seeing the tremendous outpouring of support for the Focus the Nation events across the country, I am optimistic. Optimistic that people will see what must happen not as a sacrifice, but as a way to right a few wrongs that human civilization has brought to the Earth. Optimistic that we can make a difference by starting with local changes. Optimistic that these local changes will turn into a nationwide movement.
Local is a key word in all of these discussions. A community is far stronger when it faces challenges and must work together for a common goal. If neighbors support each other, as opposed to relying on people across the country for food and other goods, then we all benefit. When it becomes impractical to travel all over the country and world, we will find comfort in the community.
I do not mean that you must cut ties with your great aunt in California, but staying local will become more useful and beneficial. I see a rise in gas price as a good thing, really—fewer cars mean more walking, biking, and doing things together. If everyone in a community does what he or she does best and contributes to the greater pool, then everyone benefits. Why do you think you get a deep-down good feeling when you go into a small, local, family-run store?
Just about everything can be localized, even waste disposal, to make a more efficient process. If towns had their own landfills, there would be fewer trucks making long trips to one centralized location, meaning a cutback on burning fossil fuels. There are other benefits to having local landfills. It might not be practical for a huge landfill to try to compost organic waste, as it would be hard to maintain a clean stream with no contamination. On a smaller scale, however, people would be able to monitor such a selective stream so it would be easier to start this practice.
These small actions have already started. Community Supported Agriculture, for example, is becoming more and more popular all over America. Cities are making changes like planting gardens, helping people save energy, and subsidizing alternative energy production. Youth organizations are making a concerted effort to beautify cities and promote pride in one’s hometown. Here in Easton, the “Weed and Seed” program has taken root to try to remove violence and gangs while implementing programs to revitalize the community. Community efforts to create a better living environment for everyone are being supported by the state and federal governments in many other cities across the United States. Building a strong community is the cornerstone to creating a more localized system.
I, for one, am eager to see what the future holds. I am ready join others and help bring about the change that we need.
Jennifer Tillman is a sophomore [class of 2010] at Lafayette College studying Biology and Environmental Science. She is an active member of LEAP, the college’s environmental club.
(Originally published in the Alliance’s 2008 Directory of Organizations That Promote Sustainable Communities.)