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Tomorrow's Yankee Values
I've been reflecting a bit on the Foundation's Little Equinox project and what I think was a clash of values -- a more traditional value set that honors a romantic, pre-industrial, pastoral Vermont and a more emergent set of values that expresses people's desire, as a recent Manchester Journal article put it, "to live a simpler life . . . to achieve the goal of living a less materialistic lifestyle." I would add independence and self reliance to this set of values. Good old Yankee values/virtues, which is to say the values themselves are quite well established in our culture. What’s new and “emergent” is their association with high technology like solar panels and wind turbines, and not just in micro applications but at a commercial scale. Energy, and in particular renewable energy, is a physical proxy, just like ridgelines, for the abstract, disembodied beliefs and attitudes people hold dear.
I think we're gonna see a lot more competition between these particular sets of values in the years ahead, and that's a good thing. For in the friction and clash will come, I believe, a new understanding, a new synthesis, a new value system in which the choice between protected ridgelines and renewable energy facilities is no longer seen as a competition, a zero sum, but a continuum. As our WindViz visualization tool showed, Little Equinox is just one in a long string of ridgelines, one piece of a much larger puzzle. Perhaps if people started to think and act like a mountain range, or a watershed, or a region, and not just like an island, the continuum approach would trump the competition approach, and we’d all be better off for it.
In this globalized, networked, climate changing world, local values and customs, themselves changing and at often at odds, are increasingly having to reckon with regional, national and global values. Many scales, many dimensions, all wrapped up in any given planning situation. Now that’s a challenge worth taking on.