Working with what we have, where we are, when we can
I recently riffed about how what you have to work with hinders largely on your location. I’d like to offer up a few real-world examples of this phenomenon, and why it should matter to more Americans.
As previously discussed, the Transition movement is a guiding light towards what I view to be our brightest path into the future. The basic steps are to eat local, shop local, bank local, and consume less.
My intention is to follow these footprints as often as possible, but some places make that tougher to do than others.
Where I am
Walking the talk is my term for being the change you want to see and living the way you know is right. I’ve come to realize that ones ability to walk the talk varies drastically by where one lives. To illustrate, I’ll compare my current situation in Lafayette, Indiana to my previous years in Sarasota, Florida.
First of all, Sarasota is probably one of the most Transition-friendly cities in the country. There are no fewer than a half dozen thriving food share programs where you can just go pick up a big box of the best food you can buy any week you want year-round. Seasonal selection changes, but supplies are reliable and prices are reasonable. Almost all of it organically grown and farm-raised right in Florida.
Transition Sarasota is one of the most active initiatives in the network, producing multiple events through the year featuring local music acts. I’ll definitely be seeking them out for ideas and advice, and I’ll probably use them as a measuring stick to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of other locales.
But at the moment, I’m not in Sarasota. I’m in Lafayette. And that leaves me with a lot less to work with in my attempt to walk the talk. There is no Transition group here, nor in Indianapolis. The only two Indiana initiatives are Bloomington two hours south and Goshen two hours north.
What I have
There are a few family farms with CSA shares in the area, but the closest one has had a new member waiting list for at least three years. We have the downtown Farmer’s Market in the summer, but off-season operations are scarce. We did just have a Fresh Thyme open up in town, but I haven’t checked it out yet. The one thing I’ve gathered for sure is that finding food with nutritional value in Lafayette will be less convenient and more expensive than it was in Sarasota.
Of course, sourcing good local food is only one step in the Transition process. Other actions are more universal, and can even come with added benefits. The first thing I did upon moving back to Lafayette was open an account at Purdue Federal Credit Union. The perks of banking with credit unions over the behemoths are numerous, ranging from better service and less fees to a deterrent against Wall Street recklessness and economic inequality.
A lot of people, as I did, look at branch locations when deciding where to bank. I was happily surprised to learn that most credit unions participate in the Co-Op Network, allowing members to complete any type of transaction they desire at 5,000+ shared branches and 30,000 ATMS across the country. This discovery was an eye-opener for me. I’ve long held the notion that walking the talk would require sacrificing convenience. Co-Op showed me that it really is possible to have the best of all worlds.
Shop local is pretty self-explanatory, but can be the most difficult part to apply in certain areas. There are a lot of rural spots in America where Main Street has closed up shop. There are no mom-and-pops hocking hardware, gadgets, clothes, toys, toiletries or supplies anymore. I assume sticking to The Plan could get mighty tricky when passing through these parts. I’ll just have to work with what I have. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about showing what’s possible.
When we can
Just to reiterate, this project is not about bashing or boycotting big business. Our culture demands less cost and more convenience and large companies supply those things. They have important roles to play and they will be around for the foreseeable future, and I have no interest in making enemies out of them.
Transition is more about asking how our culture will need to be adjusted as we acclimate to the projected changes coming our way. It’s about bringing communities together for honest conversation and tangible movement towards the development of self-sustaining local systems that work better for everyone. It’s about figuring out the best possible future, and then living it in the present.