It feels entirely fitting that I’m blogging for Grand Aspirations around Thanksgiving. Since my involvement with Grand Aspirations and Summer of Solutions began in May, I’ve experienced an amazing transformation in how I think about the world and the opportunities around me that I’m extremely thankful for. Nope, I haven’t tuned out the facts that we’re already experiencing the effects of climate change, mountains are still being blown up in Appalachia and we’re in the throes of the worst depression since the 1930s. It’s all in how I’ve started to look at those facts and the systems that create them.
I recently read in an article by two excellent researchers, Julie Graham and Stephen Healy, that captured how I used to think:
“[the economy is] understood as a force outside community and environment that effectively determines their fates.”
“If the practice of conventional economic development is about accommodating the demands of the (global) economy, environmentalism in its various incarnations is about resisting, or compromising with this same external force… …We can either say ‘no’ to economic development entirely or we can accept an unsatisfying compromise between development and environment. “
Building Community Economies: A Post Capitalist Project of Sustainable Development pages 4 and 8
This is a pretty intractable situation. Economists portray environmentalists as anti-development and elitist, while environmentalists portray economists as, well, the source of all evil. Enter Martha Pskowski, an environmentalist intent on studying economics.
The past year has taught me that people all around the world are forging ahead regardless of globalization, economic crisis and political stalemate. And these groups aren’t just addressing the climate and ecological crises we’re facing, they’re redefining their community economies. Young farmers starting CSAs and subsidizing low-income shares, community bike shops making bike commuting an affordable reality, cooperative housing keeping rent low and foreclosure at bay. The list goes on.
This is really what Graham and Healy wrote their article to ask:
“What if we could produce a different representation of economy that no longer functions as a force outside community that issues demands? If a different understanding of economy were to free us from obsessively trying to satisfy (or resist) an external master, what new conceptions of ‘sustainable development’ might emerge?” Page 10-11
These are the same questions Grand Aspirations inspires participants to ask. The options I see for myself in the economy expand and multiply every day. And the ways our ecology can be nurtured and celebrated seem more and more accessible. Not to say I could quit school and walk into my new job tomorrow. But that’s the point. We’re building the jobs of the future. And I couldn’t be more thankful.