What is Your 5-Year Vision for Your Community?

Ajax GreeneAt a recent Re>Think Local retreat we did a group visioning exercise in which we imagined newspaper headlines five years from now as a result of our successful efforts — basically, envisioning how our work will have real-world impact.

Here are some headlines I wrote:

  • “Chain Stores Leave Hudson Valley From Lack of Community Support”
  • “Local Community Supports Business Investment Fund”
  • “Business Support Defeats Fracking”
  • “Business Support Puts Living Wage Over the Top”
  • “Business Community Active in Regional Collaborations”

Personally I find this kind of exercise tremendously exciting. It is through our dreams we make positive futures come true. This is true for each of us as individuals as well as collectively as communities. Are our lives lived intentionally, or are we truly at peace with whatever happens?

Let’s think about some current issues we are collectively facing in these times of transition.

Recently someone suggested to me that the American Dream is killing us. Historically as Americans we have prided ourselves on social mobility, but the data today shows that is far from true. Your kids have fewer economic opportunities than you did.

Climate Change is also killing us. I don’t know any well-informed people who don’t believe climate change is real and human-caused, including 97-98% of climate scientists.

I’m a positive person, so why interject these very negative facts in an article that is supposed to be about positive dreams of our collective future?

It is only by acknowledging the problem that we can solve it. In my opinion perhaps the biggest threat to mankind right now is large publicly traded companies using their made-up mandate to promote shareholder value above all else. It produces wealth unfairly. (I say “unfairly” because of the obscene influence money has on virtually everything in our society, from politics to culture). It is in the name of shareholder value and short-term profits that we are destroying our planet. These same companies are treating human workers as disposable commodities (perhaps even you — or certainly someone you know).

But back to the future: Can you imagine a Hudson Valley where the vast majority of our food is grown regionally and organically? Can you picture a Main Street in every town where the local independent business owners are so prosperous that they can easily both pay for their kids to go to college and donate to local charities they are passionate about? Can you get excited about a society that collaborates for mutual gain instead of competing for dwindling resources? What about instead of destroying the Commons we find mutual joy in treasures like the Shawangunk Ridge, waterways like the Hudson River (can you say, swimming), and countless others currently at risk.

Only two things are asked of each of us: let go of your fear of change as best you can; and take action as best you can.

Re>Think local has some exciting new programs to make these changes feel easier.

The first is called the Indie Impact Study Survey, a survey that will help make the case to Hudson Valley consumers that their dollars do more when spent at local independents versus national chains. A recent study in Salt Lake City showed that their local independents keep 4 times more revenue in the local economy than corporate chains. A Grand Rapids study showed that its local economy would add 1,600 new jobs and $140 million in new economic activity if residents shifted just 10% of their purchasing! What about the Hudson Valley?

Second, which is really the logical follow-up: GO LOCAL Hudson Valley, a new program of ours designed to support and promote locally owned independent businesses and educate the public about the personal, economic and community benefits of supporting local.

These are exciting times. Dream big! Re>Think Local is working hard to make our collective “headlines” a reality. Now is your opportunity to take action.

Check out our website at rethinklocal.org and the next time you spend money please vote with your dollars at a local independent business. Most everyone will be glad you did.

This originally appeared in my regular “Tales of a Hudson Valley Localist” column in the print edition of Country Wisdom News, October 2013.

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