The Core of Local Economic Planning

A new round of discussions is about to begin on a comprehensive economic development strategy for Sullivan County. A consultant group has completed their report consisting of interviews and a review of selected economic development and planning documents of current and vintage age. What follows is a point of reference for this new effort to move the local economy toward a more inclusive, prosperous and sustainable future.

Of first importance is placing at the center of all economic discussion two related realities that are often ignored or misunderstand in terms of their import:

1)   all of the life support systems on planet earth our being destroyed by the toxic results of current economic activity, and

2)  humanity is just a part of the local community of life.

It is always amazing that these fundamental realities of our daily life do not figure prominently in our local planning and activity.  It is equally amazing that current energy practice is still not seen as the link to destruction of life and wealth or the primary way to a better future. For example, energy is not included as a key economic sector in the most recent economic study.  Renewable energy is dismissed.

Let’s go back to the center of our reality.  Time is running out for human life as we know it.  Urgency, readiness for investment in very different priorities and saying no more to many current policies and practices are required.

This column has suggested that we stop seeking economic growth and develop a thorough understanding of the sustainable economy and its very different investment profile.  It’s really very simple and we all know most of what is necessary.

We know that our lives are connected to the health of the water, air, food and wild life systems.  We know that there are severe limits to current energy sources and that their cost and toxic impact on life is increasing. We also know that there are unlimited opportunities for health, wealth and greater beauty for all that live in this marvelous place if we choose to live wisely.  Time and time again, however, we are told and comply with studies and assertions from leadership that we cannot afford energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

It is for certain that this failure to grasp hope for the future through locally appropriate sustainable energy production and energy efficiency measures will end.

The only question is, when will we commit the resources to build the planning, design and investment capacity to implement this new leading sector of the local economy?

A major obstacle is local capital formation and investors to drive this clear path to a better future. Outside capital groups identify what we do not identify.  There is great wealth to be made from the natural health and beauty of the area. But, only if it is locally controlled can the base of that wealth – our natural environment and the people and institutions that live here prosper. Local regulation and effective monitoring of large, externally-based corporations is not obtainable.  Local profitability for our institutions and workers is seldom sufficiently secured.

The core of economic planning for a sustainable future is investing in local capacity to tie the fate of our lives with the natural wealth of our area.  A major investment in energy expertise and other sustainable practices is absolutely essential to bring us to a sustainable future.

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