Solving Our Problems Locally

(#269) – It’s now commonplace to acknowledge that our lives are challenged by economic, environmental, economic and political crises.  It’s clear that our representatives to Washington D.C. are engaged in a public auction rather than a fair and honest electoral and policy-formation process.  Addiction to military actions tied to securing other people’s oil for our self-destructive fossil fuel binge is just one of many examples of the grotesque character of the national failure.  Brown lawns and persistent 90 degree plus temperatures, a looming 2013 major uptick in home mortgage foreclosures and lack of employment opportunities in our communities, are but a few of the many local challenges we face.

The world has changed radically in just a few decades and with it, life chances.  There is growing consensus that the next generation with live shorter lives and at lower incomes.  This reversal of one of the most profound links between the generations is further evidence that we must engage in a more rapid and comprehensive review of how we organize our collective and personal lives.

At the top of the list for change is our basic assumptions and current structure for food and energy production. We must learn to produce the great majority of the food and energy we consume.  If we decide to do so, we will bring prosperity to our communities, businesses, families and local government.

With the failure of corporate and national economic policy and the pressures of global competition in which we are persistently losing ground, rearranging our local relations with each other will provide the most effective way to work for a sustainable, secure and fair future. Fortunately, local efforts by many individuals and organizations are focused on creating new approaches and partnerships.

The Sullivan County Government is in the process of establishing an Agriculture Advisory Board and a Climate Action Plan Advisory Board to address these challenges.  Staff priorities are being changed to give support to these new initiatives to broaden public participation in formation of economic development projects.  The focus of these citizen-led Advisory Boards will not be looking only at solutions that make problems go away but new responses that measure and build our capacity, build new relationships and commitments to change resource allocation,  and more sustainable conditions of life.

If the NYS government will not require power and fuel companies to purchase   clean, renewable energy from locally available bio-mass, wind and solar energy, we can organize energy cooperatives and utilities while continuing to push for the policy change that will guarantee their success. New York City and other nearby markets have a huge unmet market for food products we can grow.  Valued-added food processing is also a major opportunity for existing and new businesses. We can quickly treble our local consumption of locally grown food with the right incentives.

There is major funding for just such public-private ventures through the statewide Combined Funding Application process. The Sullivan County Office of Planning, Office of Sustainable Energy, IDA, SC Funding Corporation, Partnership for Economic Development, and Chamber of Commerce have more information.

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