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Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004 12:52 am

prairie notes 9-9-04

'Tis the season to be wooed. Ardent politicians, like new lovers, fill the air with promises crafted to push our hot buttons and spend money as if it belongs to someone else. Millions are spent on polls to figure out what's important to us, millions more to convince us they have the solution to whatever tops the list. Jobs, security, are-you-better-off-than-last-year, and a host of special interests all get a spin.

I'm not suggesting that these things aren't important, or that I don't have a few "special interests" of my own, but I'm concerned that what I consider the biggest single issue facing our society is hardly ever mentioned.

Granted, "sustainability" is a complex and difficult issue -- really a whole new social paradigm rather than an issue -- but a pretty obvious one. Living in a society where the food-production system -- and just about everything else -- is dependent on the use of nonrenewable resources that are being consumed at an exponentially increasing rate should be sending up a lot of big red flags, regardless of your political inclinations. So why is so little said about this?

It's not that we couldn't be making real progress toward a lifestyle less dependent on subsidies from nature. The billions lately spent in Iraq could have gotten us light-years ahead of where we are now. For some reason, it seems, we just aren't willing or don't care enough to address this issue on which our entire future depends. Maybe it's not glitzy enough, or just too big to grapple with, or maybe we figure the techno-gods will rescue us from ourselves no matter how irresponsible we are with the earth's resources and our own unpaid bills.

It's not that moving toward a sustainable society conflicts with issues such as jobs, security, or economic growth. Just creating a locally based sustainable food system would create job opportunities for thousands of farmers, small processors, and neighborhood grocers and diminish the threat of terrorist attacks on the food supply. Profits earned and spent locally would help revitalize our small towns and urban neighborhoods.

It's the only real option for our own and our children's future in a free and dynamic society. The way we're headed now is looking more and more like a return to feudalism -- without chivalry.

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