Is New England poised to become to the New Green Economy that Silicon Valley became to Information Technology?
Thirty years ago the average person might have guessed it would be the other way around. May have guessed that California would produce the Sustainable, Green, Eco-friendly economic revolution, while New England – with it’s rational, over-educated, practical let’s-get-it-done mindedness – would likely be fertile ground for a high-tech explosion.
It turns out that internet technology appeals to the free-spirited, individualistic cowboy mentality. And sustainable anything appeals to the “get real,” conservative, sensible (and frugal) New Englander.
Sure, there are a lot of academia’s ivory towers in New England – lofty ones, but a New Green Economy must be more than ideas. So what besides education do New Englanders have that may be not so emphasized in other parts of the U.S.?
New Englanders know how to live together. They know how to live in a village with other people in close proximity and everything relying on the weather. That is to say, New Englanders know how to live in a system larger than their own spouse and immediate family — with limited resources and a tempermental eco-system.
New Englanders know how to live, work, and commune with respect.
Living with respect means: let stuff go, live and let live, don’t pry, your religion and your politics are your business, bring a casserole when your neighbor is sad, use all of the animal if you kill it, and of course: each day show up and do your work.
Those are sensibilities for a sustainable culture — business culture or otherwise. From that mentality or culture more easily comes sustainable solutions.
Those solutions will be the cornerstone of the New Green Economy.
Sustainability and Renewable Solutions?
I grew up in New Hampshire.
The reason there are so many junk cars in a redneck yard is because they’re re-using car parts. Reuse and recycle.
The reason we had a compost pile back o’ the house is because we needed to make the most of our plot of land – our garden was small and there wasn’t another thousand acres standing by to take our planting.
We used every little bit of everything.
A poet named Donald Hall lived in a nearby town. Hall wrote what many think of as an Ode to New England living called, “String Too Short To Be Saved.” It’s a prose book about New England. It begins this way:
A man was cleaning the attic of an old house in New England and he found a box which was fully of tiny pieces of string. On the lid of the box was an inscription in an old hand: “String too short to be saved.”
As I say, we saved everything. Growing up, we had a drawer full of string, twine, old corks, unidentifed pieces of wire, hooks, elastic bands…. nothing was just tossed away. In fact, we had a couple of outbuildings full of this sort of thing. We were not unusual in this regard.
Everyone had a compost system, sometimes also called “feeding the pigs.” Even if you didn’t have pigs, someone did, and deals would be cut in trade for good compost. This was a matter of course.
A southern facing house was a smart house. Windows were sealed and insulation was critical. We grew vegetables, made dandelion wine, and canned for the winter; and we knew that vegetables from that garden, even canned, tasted better and somehow were in fact better than the waxy ones from the grocery store.
“Why those damn beans need wax on ’em is what I’ll never know,” my grandfather said every August. “And God knows what chemicals are in the soil.”
We didn’t know about “Organic” this or that. But we did.
Talk to a New Englander
If you want to talk about Renewable Energy and Sustainability, you want to talk to a New Englander. By that I mean, talk to a rural person in the interior of New Hampshire or Maine.
Overheard recently was a New Hampshire-ite commenting on Vermont’s reputation for being down to earth and green, saying, “Vermont is just a state full of New Yorkers who moved up there with the vain idea of trying to live the Simple Life.” Yikes.
Okay, so it’s still a little provincial in New England with these loyalties to your home state… but the guy was completely right. There are too many Bing Crosby songs about Vermont and now the whole state has been bought up by dissatisfied New Yorkers. Not a bad thing, but they are not New Englanders.
Another group besides New Englanders you’d want to talk to about Renewable Energy and Sustainability is of course Native American tribes. Which is why the Environmental Protection Agency is partnering with tribes to work towards clean water solutions and so on. There are still some folks in New Hampshire to speak with; you’ll notice our good green state has not fallen to the casino nonsense, either.
Show me the green / money!
There is lots of money coming into New England if you are interested in Renewable projects. As Mass High Tech journal reported on December 17, 2010:
Companies doing research and development, buying equipment or developing renewable energy projects in New England will get a boost from the country’s massive tax cuts package, industry associations said Friday.
The package, worth $858 billion, extends an R&D tax credit for two years and extends a cash grant for renewable energy projects for one year. The package also includes an incentive for businesses to invest in new equipment in 2011.
That’s real money. This is real.
In the end, all things considered, New England makes surprising sense as the mecca for New Green Economy. Recent and planned events are driving this forward, such as a surprising turnout recently at a Green Chemistry Forum in Boston at MIT on December 16, 2010.
Here’s what Officials there were saying about Green in New England that you need to know:
EPA Region 1 convened New England leaders in green chemistry during the summer and fall of 2010. From these meetings a strategic plan was agreed upon as well as a structure for moving forward. A coordinating committee chaired by Regional Administrator Curt Spalding, US EPA and John Warner, Warner Babcock Institute of Green Chemistry was formed. From this committee co-leads were selected for six strategic sector based groups;
- Policy (Government)
- Production & Work (Business),
- Investment & Development (Venture Capital/Economic Development),
- Education (K-12, Colleges & Universities),
- Advocacy & Demand (Non-Government Organizations), and
- Healthcare (Environmental Health Organizations)
Members of the Coordinating Committee are charged to be true green chemistry advocates and practitioners, by reaching out to individuals, agencies, associations and the public as advocates of green chemistry. The six strategic groups will develop their own action plans for building understanding, fostering relationships and establishing commitment to a safer, greener, sustainable society.
For more, go to: http://www.epa.gov/region1/gcforum2010/
If you care about Green, New Hampshire, and/or New England, this is something to think about. It’s real.