Bill Shelton’s post made me wonder… is an ecological politics possible in Somerville?
As one of those newcomers, back in 1999, it took me a couple of years to figure out this odd place enough to want to “be a part of it”. Now a Cantabrigian, I’m going through some of the same awkwardness.
One of the things that bothered me most about Somerville was that people didn’t treat the place as though it were a community… but rather divided up into individual communities — the Brazilian community, the Salvadoran community, the Haitian community, the Portuguese community, the Italian community, the Progressive community, the Black community, the White community, the immigrant community, the homeowner community, the condo-owner community, the tenant community, the anti-war community, and of course, the townies. And Shelton’s piece exposes that even with healthy, diverse communities sprinkled throughout, a community life did exist that transcended those things that set us apart from each other.
The idea of an ecological politics — an idea formed in the Green movement of the 1970s, where the interconnectedness of people and issues and the planet itself would guide our politics –
seems like a pipe dream for Somerville, or for Massachusetts, or for the United States. The politics and economics of self-interest seems to rule the day…
But as our economy sputters, as concerns about global warming soar, as a housing/credit/debt crisis mounts, and as the cost of filling our gas tanks and our bellies sky-rockets out of control
… is there a new opportunity to move forward an ecological politics in Somerville? Signs point to yes. Just read Patricia Wild’s column on a peak oil film showing. Witness Groundwork Somerville’s successes in bringing connectedness — to food, to place, and to each other — to our youth through a green summer jobs program. The place-based success of Union Square Main Streets is expanding to East Somerville. And the recent youth peace conference empowered Somerville’s youth to think about leading us down a path of hope over fear, cooperation over competition, and opportunity over exploitation.
As we face up to the stark realities of global warming, peaking oil production, and an economy that has left most of us behind, destroying communities in the process… we just may realize that unless we shape up and see that our true self-interest lies in taking care of each other, then the bubbles we have been living in may not be as sturdy as we had thought. Perhaps our disconnectedness will fade as we become more dependent on the natural world around us. Maybe the neglected Mystic River will rise back to prominence, our lawns will be transformed into sources of food, and our feet will become the dominant mode of transportation… which will make it a lot easier to wave ‘hello’ to our neighbors. And maybe, just maybe, community will be restored.