A handful of colorful “local” lobsters — and the future of our community

Today, we welcome back Chicago-based scholar Dr. Allan Schnaiberg as our guest writer. An expert in the social forces related to community values and the environment, Dr. Schnaiberg is writing several guest pieces this week. Here, he describes a project he’s developing:

WHAT CAN a stack of home-grown lumber, some local labor and a handful of brightly colored lobsters tell us about a possible healthier future for Americans?
    Yesterday, I asked about the values surrounding President Obama’s Recovery Act. Today, I’m arguing that we can find these values boiled down in the story of Jim Robbins, his lumber business and the toys his company produces from that New England wood he carefully nurtures.
    You’ve probably heard about Jim Robbins in the news media. He runs Robbins Lumber and Robbins Toy. Here’s how the Bangor Daily News told his story, in part:
    When Robbins Lumber Inc. president Jim Robbins heard about recalls on lead paint-containing toys from China, his Yankee ingenuity took hold of him — and so did his grandfatherly instincts. “I didn’t want my grandkids using toys that were unsafe,” said Robbins, who has seven grandchildren ages 1 to 9. “I thought, ‘I can make toys that are better and safer than that stuff. I’ve got woodworkers. Let’s try making toys.
    “It’s made in Maine by Maine people, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s safe, fun and educational for kids,” Robbins said. “Those are things we’re really committed to.”

    Robbins’ general approach is what some colleagues and I are calling for in an emerging online community, “Blue Sky / Green Water.” About two dozen friends and scholars are working with me to prepare an online home where people can gather and talk about growing dangers of global warming and other environmental problems.
    But our goal is not simply to warn people. We want to welcome constructive dialogue. We plan to ask for private and public grants for a small staff to construct this online forum and, as it grows, we expect it to foster community-based, common-sense ideas like Jim Robbins’ idea up in Maine.

 Robbins Lumber toy game 2
    A Web site may sound like an abstract concept — but we are following the human intelligence shown by a man like Robbins, seeking to use local resources to bring the local economy out of recession (in its small way).
    Also like Robbins, I am hopeful. While the problems we face are dire, current reporting indicates that we have virtually ALL the technologies necessary to eliminate the problem of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, and, alas, methane from feed lots and waste dumps). The major barrier to reducing global warming is social and political commitment. With sufficient human ingenuity and sustained commitments, we could create a new and healthier and happier community-based economy.
    Mainly, I call upon anyone reading these words to apply your thinking skills!  How can we remove the accumulated carbon dioxide and heat that are saturating our oceans (and that threaten to turn the US South into an arid area, among other impacts)? How can we do so with minimal human suffering, and maximal improvement in our relationships and our lives?

    What do you think?

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