Resilience runs as deep as culture. Nothing short of the death of every person, the erasure of every cultural record, and the destruction of every artifact and memory of that culture in the world can completely kill it. The impacts of industrial civilization may never be erased from the planet.
Some cultures are more resilient than others. Our transnational “culture” of consumption is not who we are. It has become part of a way of life on which most of us depend. At some level, most of us realize that over-consumption is unsustainable. We can, as a community become more resilient to our wants and our economy’s overarching need, perpetual growth. To become more resilient, we’ll need to hold intentional discussions.
Paradise Community Guild, formerly the Paradise Grange, has a discussion guild open to the public. I participated in a small group conversation on June 18 moderated by Susan Dobra. A seasoned university professor, she led us to thinking about how to better “frame” discussions, especially sensitive ones where there’s controversy and strong differences of opinion. One example kept emerging, health care. How can we frame a prompt that can steer us to a useful discussion about the best direction to take, whether we’re talking about health care or, for example, the larger topic of resilience? The conversation will continue at the next meeting of the Guild for Civil Dialogue at the Norton Buffalo Hall on Sunday, July 23 from 4:00-6:00 PM. This guild has a lot of potential, and although I’ll miss the July discussion, I look forward to the next opportunity to participate. Keep up-to-date at www.nortonbuffalohall.com and on their Facebook page of the same name.
Our culture does a lot of assessments. Budgets assess income, estimate costs, and try to balance the two so that at the end of the year the expenditures will be within the range of acceptability. Last week the Town of Paradise passed a balanced budget, thanks in part to Measure C. Paradise may consider extending this half-cent sales tax assessment which sunsets in 4 years. The town’s finance director opined at the June 27 budget meeting that Paradise’s budget “will never grow back” to its former size, making the point that while the budget is recovering slowly from the shock of the Great Recession a decade ago, there’s little expectation of a bigger town budget in the future. The Town deserves kudos for their debt management skills as they are paying down the deficit while adding to the cash flow reserve in anticipation of the end of Measure C funds in our town, which may not be willing to extend the sales tax increase.
A bit of good news is that there’s some money in the budget for fixing potholes, and there’s an app to report them called TOP Access. You can make service requests of many types, and you’ll get notification of the status and when it’s complete. This technology saves the public and staff a lot of time as it facilitates communication. Find TOP Access at www.townofparadise.com and in the App Store for mobile devices.
Even as the future is uncertain, we can do the best with what resources we can command. As we assess our finances, we should evaluate all our resources to see how resilient we are to potential disturbances and come up with an action plan. It may be a small group of citizens who come up with the ideas in a discussion group. “Never doubt,” said Margaret Mead, “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
This column Dare We Discuss Unsustainability? was published in the Paradise Post newspaper on July 5, 2017.
Robin Huffman worked as an elected official and as an advocate for the environment. Huffman serves on the Paradise Post editorial board and teaches cultural anthropology.