"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Geotourist home town

I can't help myself. I must boast a little. Lovely! My home town, Ashland, OR (in the mythical State of Jefferson) routinely shows up in "Top" lists, but it's about time we were recognized for our sustainability consciousness! Check out this site. It's part of a larger look at the Central Cascades region and is a joint project of National Geographic Society, Oregon and Washington states.

Unfortunately they take the easy way out and just refer you to the town's website, so the geotourism trail kind of peters out at that point among all the other stuff going on around here. But they're right, the town is active in co-creating sustainability culture. (For a more focused approach to this aspect of Ashland, this article, which I wrote about a year ago, looks at Ashland and my neighborhood, Mountain Meadows, as a low-carbon-footprint-friendly kind of place to live.)

Also, the site's Festivals feature just points to the Shakespeare Festival here; the OSF is fabulous, of course, and it is taking big strides to become more green in how it does business. It goes on for most of the year; check out this story! But there are a host of other wonderful destination events here throughout the year as well - including a highly regarded film festival, AIFF, my own favorite off-Bardway event. In fact, it's coming up this week! On Saturday there will be a panel discussion and a documentary on making green movies, matter of fact, among many other interesting offerings. I'm working very hard to get rid of the remnants of my cold and be in shape for the marathon of unbridled film buffism that takes the town over for the five days of the festival. And don't get me started on the jazz, art, and everything else all over town year round.

The photo of the charming Palm Motel, showing a glimpse of its extensive gardens, is from a fine blog I just came across, written by visitors to Ashland. These people definitely "get it" about my town. They mention some more of my own favorite spots, including Standing Stone Brewery, which is one of our top sustainability-conscious businesses. I tried to comment on the post to compliment the author, but the site was glitchy and wouldn't let me.

The Geotourism project covers a pretty big geographical area, but I was pleased to see some other Rogue Valley favorites of mine of mine, including the  Rogue Creamery, a gourmet's local treasure. It also highlights the Applegate Interpretive Center, a small but very fine little museum of local lore, geography and history just off the Interstate (5). Every time I've visited it, the other visitors have included people from other countries who'd somehow found their way to there and seemed to be glad of it, as well as American descendents of Oregon Trail pioneers exploring their roots. If you're interested in harrowing pioneer experiences Applegate Trail story is epic, and the Center tells it beautifully. The docents are great and you're likely to hear some good stories from them and the other visitors. It's also really neat how the Center came to be developed and built; ask them about it.

I think this NG/State project is a great way to point people in the direction of sustainability and relatively harmless tourism. If this kind of thing is done throughout the country, it could bring like-minded (and potentially like-minded) people together and have a synergistic effect, speeding up the right kind of change and co-creating culture around these values. I hope so!
City of Ashland in summer, from Chamber of Commerce photo found on blog cited above.

Well, enough boosterism. People live where they do for a number of reasons, and usually not entirely out of choice, really, even in this mobile society. I live in Ashland because after toiling for thirty years in alien corn I desperately needed to be in my own country again (this geological/geographical area). And for once in my life, I was a bit lucky in that the timing and the economics worked out for me. My one regret in coming here is that I had to leave good friends behind, but I'm hoping some of them will wind up here too, once they see it. (Another erstwhile friend, who did come here, didn't jell and left again - Ashland also serves as a good test of compatibility!)

To be honest, no discussion of Ashland culture would be complete without acknowledging that (like Portland and Eugene, similar gardens of progressivism) we're thoroughly hated by much of the surrounding rural population, who tend to characterize Ashland as stuck up, overeducated and woo-woo. Oregon is a green state, majority-wise, mainly because of the liberal urban populations, yet as in the rest of the country the civil war is still going on in Oregon too. Think of the timber wars between exploiters and environmentalists, with limited-options workers feeling stuck between. But in Ashland, at least if this post appeals to you, you'll be in your own country, where the majority of your neighbors are likely to be sympathetic to the Coffee Party rather than that other gang.

Speaking of sustainability, there's certainly an interesting conversation going on about money and economics and what the future might look like. I liked this post on Clay Shirky's blog, on the collapse of complex business models. Describes the present meltdown, and when you add the growing trend toward sustainability economics to the picture you get a perfect case of what Buckminster Fuller was talking about, in my favorite quote (above), about not fighting the existing system but building a better model that makes it obsolete. We can either do this with intention and planning, through local sustainability models, or just be forced to it in painful bits and pieces, because we have no choice, in the not-so-distant future, I suspect, since the old world is rapidly changing. At least I hope it is.

PS at this week's Ashland Independent Film Festival, I caught some more neat quotes about Ashland. Jon Gann, filmmaker and film festival organizer of DC Shorts, says to come to the Ashland film festival - "It's the complete opposite of the East Coast." LOL - that says it all! It's why I live here. And the film critic, Shawn Levy, described Ashland (during his talkback) as just a small town, "but it's like the coolest part of a big city," and then went on to say it's like "the bohemian part of the Rogue Valley." Which is probably what he meant when, in a blog posting, he called Ashland "this most incongruous and delightful of settings." (Hey, I spent 30 years in durance vile - slowly, agonizingly earning my freedom come back here to live now. I am entitled to be happy that I succeeded! I just wish everyone could live in just the right place for them, too.)

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