16 November 2009

The Letter from Green Mountain

16 November 2009

One of my favorite songs is “Every Grain Of Sand” by EmmyLou Harris. I had the good fortune to meet her, and she reminded me that it was originally a Bob Dylan song. To me, this song is about the importance of every small gesture in the big scheme of things: “The flap of a butterfly’s wings can cause a hurricane on the other side of the planet.”

My work is about getting people to evolve from being consumers to citizens, to question the impact of every dollar they spend, every bite they eat. At one time, I wanted to “win the hearts and minds” of people; now I just want behavioral change. If we all turn out the lights, it will be ok.

I’m doing a week of “artist in residence” at Green Mountain College in Vermont, doing individual critiques and presentations to the student body. This institution strives to “do the right thing” by the environment, the future, and the people here. The students and faculty come here because of the commitment and they obviously care about their “footprint.” Admittedly, they still leave some lights on when they leave the room, still eat ham and cheese, but by and large their wish is for a society of sustaianability. And I see the same thing in the USA, and the world at large: a concern with the current situation, and desire to be part of a change. Even people that until recently refused to acknowledge climate change grudgingly shrug. With that movement in the sentiment of the population, the only question becomes “tipping point.” What is the percentage of electricity buyers turning off the lights in protest of climate change that will be necessary to force the evolution to a more local, sustainable power? I'd wager that it’s not a big number.

Being part, if only for a week, of the intellectual dynamic of this place, and the currents I have seen in the larger USA leaves me with a real sense of hope.

No comments: