Sunday, June 22, 2008

It can't be done

I've had several people tell me it can't be done. Trying to build sustainable, transit-oriented developments in Washtenaw County won't work.

There are many reasons given for this. Older people - very intelligent, aware, conservative people - are convinced Michiganders are too attached to their cars. That they would be willing to pay an arm, a leg, or both, rather than give up driving everywhere.

Middle-aged people, including a prominent, liberal Ann Arbor environmentalist, are convinced the political leaders and the development companies are too happy making money with sprawl developments. They are perfectly willing to talk the talk, but not walk the walk to sustainability. The county is led by "greenwashers", people who know the advantages of sounding environmentally concerned, but aren't really willing to forego the short-term gains in "business as usual".

So what's a concerned citizen to do? Give up?

Here's my perspective. Right now, my grandson is 3 years old. I know that if I don't work for sustainable development, he will probably leave Michigan and go someplace where people have been willing to invest in future generations. My son has already left - for Seattle. Or my grandson will stay here and live a life of hardship, scraping by in an environment that isn't prepared for gas that tops $20 a gallon.

I've been told I'm wasting my time, beating my head against a brick wall. You can't fight city hall. Well, OK, so this is a "hard-hat zone". That doesn't mean the brick wall should be there, or is going to be there forever. Unless a few people are willing to don hard-hats and start beating against brick walls, our kids and grandkids will be buried under the rubble when the wall crumbles. The wall will fall, because the changes their generation are going to see will be like Katrina and the Szechuan earthquake put together.

So to those who say "It can't be done," I've got to respond, "It must be done". I'm not willing to put my feet up and let my grandkids face problems that I didn't have the guts to face.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has."
  • Margaret Mead

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