Sunday, February 8, 2015

A New Economy for greater Minnesota

It shouldn't be a secret to even semi-irregular readers of this blog that I come from New England. Massachusetts is my home state, but I spent a fair amount of time in Vermont, either hanging around with some unreconstructed hippie types or, some years later, chasing ruffed grouse and whitetail deer. Vermont has a number of interesting episodes in its history. Of more relevance today is an initiative it's pursuing with the support of the Donella Meadows Institute, Vermont's New Economy. We've mentioned that effort before in these posts. We're bringing it up again in response to a guest posting of February 5 on Aaron Brown's Minnesota Brown blog. Both that post and the comments are worth a read if you care about northern Minnesota in general and the Iron Range in particular.

northern Minnesota, Lake Superior
northern Minnesota, Lake Superior
Photo by J. Harrington

I'm aware of and sensitive to the Minnesotan "not invented here" syndrome, but I also have concerns about how many times the wheel has to be reinvented. Vermont is basing its New Economy  on "new approaches to food, energy, business, and finance that strive for wellbeing over growth....Through initiatives such as community food and energy networks, local investment opportunities, worker-owned businesses, cooperatives, and more, communities across Vermont are exploring new ways of structuring the economy. Their successes offer important examples of how a more participatory, resilient, value-driven economy can bring positive change to Vermont and other states." Their New Economy's focus on local solutions fits well with one of my recommended approaches to rural economic development, Economic Gardening. If insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expect different results, maybe it wouldn't be too insane for the Range and its leaders to consider a New Economy that places more emphasis on creating the infrastructure needed to grow local businesses and the cooperation required to support local Main Streets.

A Room in the Past

By Ted Kooser 
It’s a kitchen. Its curtains fill
with a morning light so bright   
you can’t see beyond its windows   
into the afternoon. A kitchen   
falling through time with its things   
in their places, the dishes jingling   
up in the cupboard, the bucket   
of drinking water rippled as if
a truck had just gone past, but that truck   
was thirty years. No one’s at home   
in this room. Its counter is wiped,   
and the dishrag hangs from its nail,   
a dry leaf. In housedresses of mist,   
blue aprons of rain, my grandmother   
moved through this life like a ghost,   
and when she had finished her years,   
she put them all back in their places
and wiped out the sink, turning her back   
on the rest of us, forever. 

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Please be kind to each other while you can.