Friday, July 18, 2014

A tale of two (or more) futures

Conservation Minnesota recently shared what I consider a very encouraging bit of news. The blog posting I'm talking about was written by "Kathleen Schuler, Healthy Kids And Families Program Director at Conservation Minnesota and Co-Director of Healthy Legacy." It's called Healthy Jobs for a Healthy Economy and is about a major new initiative on the Iron Range, one that could help bring about a sustainable economy for that area.

Calumet, on the Iron Range
Calumet, on the Iron Range
Photo by J. Harrington

The degree of interest in job creation on the Iron Range seems to be almost the antithesis of the interests of the folks participating last week in the IMAGININGS activity for the lower St. Croix Valley. During the IMAGININGs, there was concern that, sometimes, too much attention was being focused on economic development of downtowns. Perhaps it had something to do with local awareness that the St. Croix has already gone through the fur trade, lumbering, tourism and recreation, and is now on the fringes of a growing metropolitan region. Perhaps it was due to the relatively short time frame of the exercise, what will the area be like in 2034. The differences in focus between the Range and the Valley made me do some more thinking about what art and sustainability can bring to the questions of the futures we're creating. That "s" at the end of "future" is not a typo. It used to be that we lived in a world in which we could envision a desirable next step that usually involved more of what we already had in some slightly "new and improved" arrangement.

a tranquil, at the moment, St. Croix River
What do the futures hold for the St. Croix?
Photo by J. Harrington

The world we live in these days doesn't have enough "more" to go around. Yet it seems to be most capable of producing greater levels and intensities of conflicts over things like oil exploration and transport, mining of non-ferrous metals, and water quality and quantity, even in a water-rich place like Minnesota. Artists and the arts can bring an alternative, holistic, whole systems ecology perspective to the issues and concerns that are troubling us these days. Can Minnesota become an international leader in such an initiative? Yes? Will it? We'll see. I'm hoping the St. Croix Valley will be a place to start. If we don't want to end up up the river without a paddle, we shouldn't put all our eggs in one basket (or reduce our futures down to one). Top that for a mixed metaphor, have a great weekend in your immediate future and look below to see what Peter Bethanis has to say about our previous American Future.

American Future

By Peter Bethanis 

In 1963 the morning probably seemed harmless enough
to sign on the dotted line as the insurance man
talked to my parents for over an hour
around a coffee table about our future.
This roof wasn't designed to withstand meteors
he told my father, who back then had a brush haircut
that made his ears stick out, his moods
still full of passion, still willing to listen,
my mother with her beehive hairdo,
smiling back at him, all three of them
wanting so much to make the fine print
of the world work. They laughed
and smoked, and after they led the man
politely to the door, my parents returned
to the living room and danced in the afternoon light,
the phonograph playing Frank Sinatra,
the green Buick's payments up to date,
five-hundred dollars safely in the bank—
later that evening, his infallible common sense
ready to protect us from a burst pipe or dry rot,
my father waded up to his ankles in water,
a V of sweat on the back of his shirt.
Something loomed deeper than any basement
on our block, larger than he was,
a fear he could not admit was unsolvable
with a monkey wrench or a handshake and a little money down.

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