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Same old goals will not address a sustainable future
For the 16-county region around Chattanooga, the ongoing THRIVE 2055 project is seeking to figure out how our future should look. We’ve been told in glowing terms to expect accelerated growth in population and jobs.
After all, we are Gig City, with major new companies moving here in the last four years. We have the ability to attract more industry given our pretty scenery, quality of life, and cultural amenities.
THRIVE 2055 also recognizes the environmental and infrastructure problems that could arise with growth. It mentions possible equity issues for at-risk and rural families as the job market shifts to higher-skilled and technical labor requirements.
There is at least lip service paid to the need to preserve natural resources: Establish a regional vision around air quality, stormwater management, preservation of scenic assets, and water resource management.
This is all well and good—but the approach is inadequate to meet or create a sustainable future. Of course, none of us can predict our exact future, but this THRIVE 2055 approach, with growth management and push for more industry and business as the overarching goals, seems shortsighted. It’s more like a five-year strategic plan than one looking 40 years down the road.
Our ecosystem that supports all life is under assault—and yet we plod along the same path, believing this same old way guarantees increase in monetary wealth for all, even though we know it’s not the case.
To satisfy our need for more, we continue to permit the production of goods and food poisonous to our health and to the environment. We continue to permit energy generation that produces air, water, carbon and radionuclide pollution and encourages mountain top removal, forest and soil degradation, species loss, earthquakes from fracking, and nuclear waste.
Meanwhile, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is sliding into the sea, causing coastal rising of sea levels and forcing people to move inland (possibly to Tennessee). Climate disruption is also causing changes in food production and loss of biodiversity.
These are big concerns left unaddressed by THRIVE 2055. It feels like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic while ignoring the need for real survival solutions.
In a “Story of Stuff” video, Annie Leonard tells us that the old game is to get more. In a resource-constrained world, that’s the wrong goal. The goal should be to get better. (www.storyofstuff.org) Leonard encourages us to engage in figuring out game-changing solutions that lead to a better chance to survive on this planet.
And what might those game-changing solutions be?
First, recognize that the prime directive is to place the preservation of environmental resources above growth. THRIVE 2055 does emphasize the need to preserve our scenery and save our natural resources—but realistically, when it comes to choosing between saving a wetland or building a retail store, will construction permits be denied?
Secondly, it’s about using less stuff. Many (maybe most) of us go round and round in a revolving door working harder and harder just to buy something more, as if the planet’s resources are not finite. This pattern of overconsumption is not leading to better.
Perhaps we should rely on the 16 behaviors Robert Fulghum lists in his poem “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten.” The very first one is “Share Everything”, the fifth one is “Clean Up Your Own Mess”, and the sixth one is, “Don’t Take Things That Aren’t Yours”.
Those are lessons that would serve us well going forward with sustainability in mind. Can we live in supportive communities to get back in harmony with the environment? How about thinking of ways to do that—and THRIVE?
Learn more about THRIVE 2055 at thrive2055.com. The website contains an interactive page to identify natural treasures under the Get Involved tab.