Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gas shortages and community building

So we're all a little worried.  There are still some of you we haven't heard from - those friends of the store and of Medusa who make their primary homes in the city or on Long Island.  And tonight, as I try to type quietly so as not to wake the sleeping babies lying next to me, I continue to worry.

This morning an old childhood friend (we wish you lived closer, Dan Ryan!) posted on Facebook that Kingston was running out of gas.  Honestly, I thought that was a little strange, but didn't think much of it.  At the store today, a friend, one of those who works during the week in New York, chatted with me a bit about our decision to sell the store - and we laughed a little about how there isn't a better place to create a home than here.  Medusa is as safe as life gets, I think.  We are also blessed with more than our fair share of brilliant, creative, amazing people.  My family doesn't have any plans to leave, I told him.  And I was glad he'd made it out of the city and back to Medusa, because, after all, we have plenty of gasoline. 

But later, we started having more folks calling to inquire whether we had gas - frankly, as we do run out every so often, this wasn't immediately worrisome.  But then news started trickling in that local stations - Greenville, for example - were beginning to run out of gas.  How can this be - with all of our technology, we must have modelled the supply chain problems that could occur after facing a crisis like a hurricane hitting the upper East Coast, right?  And why isn't there more on the web about the gas shortages that are spreading this far north?  Could this affect our deliveries - could we have food shortages because of our reliance on diesel-fuel-driven truck transportation, we wondered?

Even more concerning, now a google search turns up articles that suggest that the hospitals in the city are closing and moving patients.  That the emergency rooms are facing complete chaos, understaffed and running on generators.  Apparently attempts by the governors of NY and NJ to provide gasoline to folks backfired completely, and they rescinded plans, at least in NY, to provide places where residents could get gas.

I am starting to feel like I've watched one too many Walking Dead episodes, honestly.  And I think some of you are probably reading and waiting for the punch line, but there is none, this time.  The fact that, thanks to a hurricane hitting Manhattan, climate change and peak oil are phrases that have suddenly come back into vogue is little consolation as I wonder what I would do if I had a sick or injured child and no where to go for help.

But if there is a silver lining, and I am one of those annoying, Pollyanna-esque types, I think that we may be witnessing one of the brightest moments ever in our struggle to turn our ship towards greater sustainability.  And, as I discussed with a friend today, if that term is not clear enough - let's figure out exactly what we should call it.  We need to develop a plan, right here and right now, about how we become energy independent.  We need to take Carol's lead, up at Heather Ridge, and start implementing energy alternatives.  We need to start getting more local food - all year round - on shelves here at our store - and folks must begin acknowledging that they need to participate in supporting that.  Mostly, I think, we need to work much harder to develop the sort of community that can weather storms - either literally in the form of Irene, or more indirectly, as we experience the effects of supply chain problems that can ripple outward for months.  A strong, cohesive community is capable, I think, of facing any challenge, no matter how insurmountable it may at first appear.

So I am inviting you to take the first step with me.  And I'm not even sure how, exactly.  But even if we start by putting up a big bulletin board at the store where you can post your ideas about how we, as deciding members of this community, can move towards becoming more resilient, more prepared, more immune to these types of crises, that would be better than simply watching and waiting.  We must make a point of finding each other more often, talking, figuring out what the way forward looks like - we need to stop waiting for someone else to do it.
It’s time we all make the decision to participate, because, from my vantage point, it seems like we no longer have much of a choice.

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