To the residents of Carson City and all those without jobs in Mid-Michigan:
The last lines of Wendell Berry’s poem “A History” reads “This place, that the great nation passed in its hundreds of hundreds, becomes again the place that they were searching for.”
As I read I was reminded of our own fair city of Carson City. I thought of the farmers and families that had carved a life out of mid-Michigan, had coffee together, raised barns, threshed grains, shocked corn, and built schools, churches, and businesses. The industrial revolution and more specifically the automobile has been kind of like the fire in Berry’s poem, “They set fires behind them to discourage pursuit. Behind them, the way would not support another passage.”
We find ourselves, as in Berry’s poem, at the point where the fires are out (as well as many of the manufacturing jobs), the opportunities are popping up like new shoots of grass through the ashes but it will take much vision and determination to culture a different kind of community from the devastation that many call the “Rust Belt”.
Agribusiness will continue to figure prominently but as any farmer knows diversity is the key to success. Picture a landscape broken by a huge wind farm. Farm and municipal waste flowing through sewer lines toward anaerobic digesters to capture the earth-suffocating methane- redeemed as heating fuel or to power a generator. Maybe our roofs will reflect the blue skies as photovoltaics turn sunlight into energy to serve our homes and community. Perhaps a biodiesel plant processing corn stover or wood chips into syngas in a biomass gasification process and using the waste heat to make ethanol or heat a hydroponic greenhouse where fresh vegetables are produced year-around.
Change is right around the corner and I urge you to resurrect and embrace the frontier spirit that calloused the hands of those that came before us. Don’t be drawn into negative politics this fall, concerning yourselves with what has been done wrong, but rather ask what will be done right and choose someone you believe will do it. Indifference is our only enemy. If we are not building we are dying.