I have blogged about my town before-and painted it as a typical rural, republican, closed minded, insert right bashing epithet here, etc. And in many ways it is-we voted for Sensenbrenner (I can’t even type his name without shuddering) after all. But then I went to our village board meeting tonight, and I need to say this. I was wrong. Really wrong.
The main event at tonight’s Board meeting was to be a presentation of our village administrator’s trip to Sweden for a Sustainablility Conference. Now the fact that our administrator has enacted a Green Commitee and is going on trips to Sweden for Sustainability Conferences tells you alot about our V.A., Paul. He drives a Prius, pushes Rain Gardens; he gets it. But I thought he was a rogue. A loose cannon that had slipped thru on good interviewing skills or something. But here I am at a presentation with Paul and some Patagonia wearing Keen sandal sporting ex-Hippie (that’s a good thing with me) talking to us about their vacation. The title of which was The Natural Step. The first slide was one word: Holistic. I started fidgeting-that sounded waaay too fruity for these farmers. The next slide was Systemic. The presentation goes on without missing a beat to hit Global Warming, Peak Oil, and a poignant graph showing the Resource Funnel in a flurry of sometimes controversial data that left even myself a little breathless. After setting this doom and gloom backdrop, they then went into the slides from Sweden. Slides showing a McDonald’s that uses the waste heat from the fryers to heat dozens of homes, a Ford Dealership that uses lindseed oil in their hydaulic lifts, a wastewater treament plant that uses a wetland to cleanse 90% of the waste, and the other 10% goes into a processor that creates enough Bio Gas to fuel 75% of the local bus fleet. They showed us a landfill where only 4% of the incoming garbage actually hits the landfill-75% is recycled, 21% is incinerated in a 99.997% effecient process with the waste heat heating an entire town on 5 mile diameter loop of pipe. They then finished, after 30 minutes, with the 3 Legs of the Sustainability Stool: Economic Viability, Environmental Sustainability, and Social Justice. Then they turned the lights back on and opened it up for questions. I was impressed, but I honestly expected the board to eat them alive for wasting their time with this pinko commie crap.
Not only did the Board applaud, but they were smiling, nodding their heads-some emphatically-and thanking them for a great presentation. Let me repeat that: a great presentation!
I learned during the presentation that the hippie guy was actually our County Supervisor-and at least in our town, very well respected as a ‘Smart Guy’. I caught up to him after the presentation to introduce myself, and he really is the Real Deal: living in a Passive Solar home for 30+ years on a permaculture farm, and now touring the County and leading 10 week seminar’s to get us all to sign up as Eco Municipalities. I was blown away. The likelihood of us getting our new Firehouse LEED Certified is looking much, much better. I even talked to the Fire Chief, John, about putting in a biodiesel processor in the garage.
So after I met Greg, I went back inside and while the Board debated why the baseball diamond lights keep getting left on after games, I did some Big Thinking. How could I have been so wrong? Arrogance and elitism are a big parts, but also I think it comes down to the fact that these aren’t the kind of Republicans I am used to. I am used to economic upper middle class republicans looking to get richer thru tax cuts and don’t mind screwing the welfare Moms who should just stop whining and get a job anyhow; these types are more old school libertarian, small government types who had voted democrat for years until the Moral Majority brainwashed them. These guys are farmers, or sons of farmers, that didn’t fall too far from the nest (a good thing). They grew up on permaculture farms, only they never called them that. The fact that they turned every waste product on their farm into a useable product wasn’t a novel idea-it was how they survived. When Greg and Paul talked about turning the waste heat from a landfill into heat for houses it made perfect sense to them. These guys are tinkerers just like me and the common sense, nuts and bolts nature of these ideas resonated very well with them. Environmentalism is only an issue for the politicians, on the ground out here in Rural America, the Average American is ready. If we can show them that the economics are there, and they are, they are onboard for the Green Revolution. No one knows better how fragile the environment is than a farmer-everyone breathes. Our Green Commitee has their work cut out for them in research, but after talking with several trustees after the meeting, the Board will sign off if we can make the numbers work.
Reading about the Apollo Alliance in this week’s Nation they were talking about the growth of grassroots movements in environmentalism had given me hope. This week’s Village Board meeting has given me much, much more. I don’t care if we have already passed the point of no return on Global Warming. As a great man in a black vest once said: “They ain’t takin me without a fight”.