Sunday, March 29, 2009

To Make an Omelette You Must Break a Few Eggs

This morning hundreds of volunteers are giving their time and labor to fill sand bags for the City of Fargo’s fight against the rising Red River. This work is taking place inside the FargoDome, a structure owned by the City of Fargo and normally used for football games and concerts. Driving massive dump trucks full of sand into the dome and dumping it out where citizen-volunteers then shovel it into bags for transport by other volunteers to the dikes which are being built by still other volunteers, is not what the FargoDome was designed for, but, a rising river has caused them to abandon their original plans and gladly accommodate this new activity. I doubt very seriously if the folks who run the FargoDome are concerned about the mess the sand is making or the possible liability associated with allowing those volunteers to come in and man the shovels. Rather, they realize that the new needs of the many dramatically outweigh the “business as usual” mentality.

It is impossible to watch this battle of community against the Red River without seeing parallels to our situation in Glasgow. True, we are not being threatened by a raging Red River, but we are being inundated by a failing economy which is highlighting our over-dependence on a manufacturing sector closely aligned to the automotive industry. We are threatened by our lack of planning for a sustainable food economy, wherein we are surrounded by food factories that ship all of their products away to be processed in distant food factories and eventually transported back to Glasgow after being combined with diesel fuel and questionable chemical additives. We are not threatened by a swollen river in the conventional sense, but we are threatened, nonetheless, by complacency and inattention to some essential infrastructure issues, and those are just our particular local challenges.

Our local move toward a sustainable food economy is only the local beginning of a movement that must continue across the country. As this article by Thomas Friedman points out clearly, it is not just our local economy that is down. It is not just the Dow that is collapsing. Mother nature has a Dow as well and it is sending us a signal that must be heeded. It is truly time to think globally and act locally.

Sustainable Glasgow represents the beginning of a band of volunteers willing to shovel sand and build levees. We are willing to stand on the wall to protect our community. But, we are few and we are facing problems which will require the same sort of cooperation and recognition of special circumstances that is being displayed by the City of Fargo. Let’s hope that the folks in Fargo are successful in their fight and that the people of Glasgow learn a lesson from Fargo’s struggle. When bigger problems present themselves, bigger thinking is required to protect our city from the flood.

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