I am taking a different approach to my thoughts on Part VI of Last Child in the Woods titled "Wonder Land: Opening the Fourth Frontier", which includes Chapters 18, 19 and 20.
Chapter 18. The Education of Judge Thatcher: Decriminalizing Natural Play
Chapter 19. Cities Gone Wild
Chapter 20. Where the Wild Things Will Be: A New Back-to-the-Land Movement
"When going back makes sense, you are going ahead." ~ Wendell Berry
These chapters could NOT have come at a more perfect time in my life. Rick and I have made the decision to move our family from the "American Dream" home and suburbian posh life, back to my itty bitty small hometown in Missouri of less than 3,000 people. It was not something that we expected or planned to do. It just sort of happened. But the funny part was that it made COMPLETE sense to us. In fact, we knew that we would be stupid not to jump on the opportunity. When I read the above quote by Wendell Berry, it brought tears to my eyes.
I know my hometown pretty well. Not much has changed since I left it 25 years ago. But, Rick doesn't know anything about the town. So, he went to the town's website and came across something called Vision 2040. Apparently the town had hired a visionary company to make plans for the town over the next 30 years.
When reading Chapters 18, 19, and 20, I realized that the company and committee were envisioning the type of back-to-nature living environment for which the chapters dream. It was very exciting to realize that, although the progress will be slow and we might not even get to realize the benefits of it in our lifetime, the ideas and progress are there!
On Page 277 of Chapter 20, "Professor David Orr described what he believes is a paradigm shift in 'design intelligence' comparable to the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. He calls for a 'high order of heroism,' one that encompasses charity, wildness, and the rights of children. As he defines it, a sane civilization ... would have more parks and fewer shopping malls; more small farms and fewer agribusinesses; more prosperous small towns and smaller cities; more solar collectors and fewer strip mines; more bicycle trails and fewer freeways; more trains and fewer cars; more celebration and less hurry ..."
Some of the visions for our town are: to revamp the downtown area to make it less vehicle friendly and more pedestrian friendly by taking out much of the street parking and replace it with bike paths and larger sidewalks flanked by trees, greenery, flowers, and benches; to repair the run-down buildings and spruce up their facades; to bring in some local-flavor businesses, like shops and restaurants, and to include stores that sell needed items to rival the nearby towns that include Walmart; to refurbish some of the older homes into bed and breakfasts; to create a "Village", near a newly constructed community center in a closed-down factory, with small, neat homes that face into each other with lots of green space and no cars; to take advantage of the old railroad bike trails that intersect in our town to attract tourism; to take abandoned lots in town and create green play space for children.
So far the town has been successful at getting grants to bring in a substantial recycling program and have been working toward giving the downtown stores a facelift.
Progress is being made, but there is still so much to be done. And there are obstacles. Money is one of them. And the older generation of the town is another. But, with grants and a younger, excited, educated generation, maybe this style of living is really possible!
When Richard Orr was asked if his vision was "Utopia", he replied ... "No, We have tried utopia and can no longer afford it."
These chapters inspired me to do my part in our new little town, to contribute and help with the vision. In fact, I am even going to attend a Town Hall Meeting this week to hear what's in store. I can't wait.
What about your local community. Do you see any upcoming changes toward the natural good?
Well, we are down to the last three chapters. Gets those read this next week and let's wrap up on Friday or Saturday. If you have comments on Chapters 18, 19, and 20, leave them below or leave a link to your own blog post.