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« Detroit, Hollywood and the Next Innovation Opportunity | Return to Perspectives On Place | Confessions of an Omnivore »

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.

Joel B. McEachern

Re: Perspectives on Place

I am always fascinated by the perspective of planners and, having done a bit of that work myself, I hardly ever disagree.

Bill Shutkin's idea on how we see our land and our place on it is intriguing. It invites a bigger view and comparative thinking. What I miss is the critical questioning.

We began as a developer nation--destroying or displacing anything or anyone that objected to our ideas of rapid expansion. And just in case anyone is paying attention, we are still doing it.

We believe--still--that our national and global survival depends upon the continued and aggressive reinforcement of short term economic practices. Take the oil problem, please.

In a state where the protection of its islands would have meant the preservation of its very life, the metaphor of range, region and watershed does not neatly apply. Florida's creation of ranges by defoliation, diversion and drainage are, in large measure, why the state's islands and inland seas--not unlike the Great Everglades--are more water storage tanks and neo-zoos than wild and living places.

Growth runs on water and it is why the state's recent conservation moves invariably included access and control over onsite or adjoining water supplies.

Whats conservation without large amounts of development?

Creating ranges gave birth to new opportunities across the region to grow and support the short term economic objectives of a politically-entrenched development culture; a culture where the practice of conservation in a vacuum still thrives, feverishly expanding with no end in sight.

Should we think differently about how we see and use the resources we have left?

Unquestionably. But our questions have to get sharper and we have to become less patient with the same old answers; answers that have put us all at risk. And in the place we call Florida, time and water are in short supply.

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