Reaching for freedom
There’s an advantage to facing these issues now as opposed to allowing catastrophe to force the issue. A community that makes the transition to local food and energy production now will have more control over how that transition unfolds than those that wait for that last drop of gasoline to vanish and summer highs to reach up to 120 degrees in Colorado, as they are predicted to do by the end of the 21st century — even if all world governments meet their goals and keep their promises with regard to reduction of greenhouse gases.
But there’s another less tangible advantage to making this transition now, and it can be summed up in a single word: freedom.
“Freedom is kind of the underlying issue here that doesn’t get talked about very much,” Brownlee admits. “In giving away our capacity to meet our own needs locally, we have become so dependent on distant sources and foreign powers that we in many ways are powerless and can be forced to pay whatever price is asked for what we need, and that’s exactly how freedom can be sacrificed in the name of survival.”
This is true on a national level and on an individual level.
A reskilled family in a localized community is a family with more control over the lives of its members because its economy is subject to local control. What happens on Wall Street or in Congress doesn’t matter as much to those who are out of debt, who grow much of their own food and have the skills to meet most of their own needs — and to help their neighbors.
“Freedom — it’s a principle that we need to focus on because people are pretty much blind to it,” Brownlee says.
Even if climate change is a hoax (it isn’t) and your favorite political party holds onto the White House for the next four decades (it won’t), there is true value in knowing how to do things yourself.
Carolyn Bninsky, also of RMPJC, says she found growing a vegetable garden this summer to be surprisingly satisfying. She planted the seeds, went out each day to check on their progress, watering, weeding and caring for the growing plants, then eventually enjoying the results of her work on the dinner table.
“What excites us and what engages us can change,” she says. “We’re not stuck with what they taught us with the commercial culture.”
Bninsky says she is gradually learning new skills and finds the process enjoyable. The idea of Boulder County having its own thriving economy and its own culture is deeply appealing to her, but also a bit overwhelming.
“It feels really big, but you do it one person at a time and one group at a time,” she says. “If we can really bring people together, maybe we can create something where more people are engaged creating our collective future together. It feels pretty daunting, but with more people involved and with each person doing a piece, everybody becomes a leader. Everybody becomes someone who can reach out to other people and help them learn, too.”
*Editor’s note: We looked it up. To “conn a ship” means to direct the course of a ship.