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E-M:/ Local Future: A Path to Sustainability

Enviro-Mich message from Aaron Wissner <aaronwissner@yahoo.com>

I just wanted to give you the insiders scoop on how the Local Future efforts are going thus far.


Note: This is a rather long note about Local Future, its progress, and the path to sustainability that the organization envisions. You are invited to read, and to share this if you wish, but there is (of course) no requirement to read. Time, as I have recently learned since having my first child, is something that is often in very short supply. :-) Best regards to you.


Officially, it has been less than three months since the first Local Future event, the "What a Way to Go" film in Middleville that reporter Neil King Jr. attended while here for his interview with me. His 1,100 word report on peak oil, and my place in it, made the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Neil has since written about a half dozen articles in the Wall Street Journal that are clearly informed by his trip to Michigan. This has helped move Michigan up a notch or two in the peak oil awareness and sustainability education arenas.

In Middleville, we held two additional Saturday events, "End of Suburbia" in February and "Power of Community" in March. Not only were both well attended, but all three of the Saturday events received favorable local press and good word of mouth. Local Future is starting to become known as a benevolent organization that is working for the welfare of the community. This is essential in reaching out to a community divided by religion and politics.

We also started having weekly education events, simply by playing a DVD with an interesting talk, or inviting in a speaker, such as with Kurt Cobb's visit earlier this month. These weekly events, while challenging to get consistent press on, have helped to bring together local people and has, to one degree or another, helped to support or motivate a local effort for the Middleville Green Days, which is being organized by Sue Merrill. I believe Sue already had the ideas and the Local Future events simply provided the added incentive and confidence that Green Days was the right thing to do. This Green Days effort is grassroots in nature, exactly the type of thing that the Local Future educational and discussion events hope to motivate and inspire.

Concurrently with the pilot efforts in Middleville, I've been working with a group of very interested volunteers on getting "The International Conference on Peak Oil and Climate Change: Paths to Sustainability" launched. I picked the city of Grand Rapids due to its nearness, but also because the local U.S. Representative, Vern Ehlers, is part of the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus and was willing to meet and endorse the idea of the conference. His staff assisted in finding a properly sized venue, which is Calvin College's Fine Arts Center. After meeting with their events coordinator, I decided to go ahead with the conference, despite the personal financial risk it puts me in. My reasoning is that life is short and this may be my only chance to do something this important, and it is worth putting my money where my mouth is.

Back to the volunteers, based on their excellent work and encouragement, we have the SustainabilityConference.org web site, the excellent graphics, the poster design, the trifold, several networks to get out the word, a great proposed schedule for breakout "Paths to Sustainability" and more. By using the graphics and trifold, we managed to find another person who is burning to see the conference a success, and she is joining the planning committee, bringing new connections, new ideas, perspective, and energy to the table.

So far, we have over fifty registrants who have already paid their way, we have over twenty speakers, and we have a dozen or two people interested in presenting at the breakout sessions. Plus, there are several people who have taken it on their own initiative to start promoting the conference, including putting up the posters, emailing their networks and friends, and even an effort in Traverse City to host a forum as a prelude to the conference. These contributions are what will make the conference a great success. And yet, of course, there is always much, much more to do. We probably need another twenty volunteers working on the conference committee alone. My wife Kimberly, a project manager, worked on the conference project schedule this week, and there are probably a hundred tasks that still need to be done, the most important being getting out the word, so all that would want to attend know what is going on.

As a side note, the conference itself is being designed so that it can be replicated or modified by any person or group of people who want to host their own sustainability conference. We already are looking at doing a second conference and have a major business interested in helping to see this happen. The dream would be to have similar conferences in every nation, and in every state, using primarily local speakers, and focusing on building community and a vision for a path to sustainability for that locale.

Back to the local community efforts, we are working to get the Grand Rapids Michigan education events started. A student at the local community college is working within the college to organize events. They will be screening "What a Way to Go" in April, and with any luck, this will help us to connect with more like-minded people; those concerned with the future for both ourselves, our families, and our communities. In addition, it looks like the groundwork is being laid in both Holland and Hastings for similar efforts, with or without the Local Future moniker.

There is also the online effort, putting videos and articles online to help others learn and understand about peak oil, sustainability, and other related concepts. I currently have on video a dozen or two hi-quality talks that are ready to be published. The only thing putting them on hold is the time to properly edit them so they can be published. This is a somewhat technical task. I expect that at some point someone will volunteer to take part of this task on. Local Future, after all, is a strictly volunteer effort, and the volunteers and supporter are going to be the primary factor in the speed of its growth.

Local Future is designed to bring together all people interested in moving towards a brighter future. Given all of the problems in the world today, we can see that the path we, as a world culture, are walking is one that leads nowhere good. Getting to something better will only be possible by coming together under a shared vision of the future. This vision, more likely than not, will be achievable by understanding the nature of unsustainability in our world, and in also formalizing the system of principles and values that will provide the vehicle to get us to that future. Luckily, these values are nothing new, and it is primarily a matter of inviting people to recognize that they share dreams and values in common, and then reminding ourselves that only by concerted effort can we achieve these dreams.

Sustainability, as a concept, is so poorly understood by most, that to talk of it without definition is almost fruitless. To be sustainable means that a given practice can continue forever without negative impacts now or in the future. One could imagine a community of people living together in a way that does not diminish their environment or ecosystem but also provides for their individual and community needs. Such a community, if sustainable, could continue for hundreds or thousands of years, in harmony and balance with its surroundings. When looked at from the outside, a sustainable community would appear to be part of the natural systems of the world. That is because a sustainable community IS a natural system.

Local Future envisions paths to sustainability. As we start on our journey's along these paths, our goal is to move closer to this vision of sustainability. In reality, even the shortest of these paths may takes decades or centuries to follow. Our goal is to move along a path, towards sustainability, and to invite those around us on the journey as well. This journey is a transition away from the unsustainable global culture which reduces our unhealthy and dangerous dependence on imported food, energy, products and services, and allows the development of new local cultures that provide for all these needs and more. In reality, with the coming decline in world energy supply, we can either be forced into a new lifestyle by the laws of nature as they collide with our unsustainable ways, or we can transition to sustainability by our own choice, and in our own manner. I prefer the latter.

Thank you for reading. I hope that this note, wordy as it may be, gives you a bit of insight into the thinking behind Local Future. I am happy to know that I am not alone on this quest for sustainability, and I want you to know that you are not alone either. We are together, each of us a small part of Earth, and each of us desiring a brighter, happier, and better world in the future.

Best regards,


P.S. If the above resonates with you, I really hope you will participate in the conference. Here is the web site: http://sustainabilityconference.org Or perhaps you will gather with others for an upcoming event: http://localfuture.org All the best to you. :-)

Aaron Wissner

Local Future Network

Value System: Gas Prices, Money, Peak Oil and The Future

New Culture Videos

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