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How green is OUR valley?

Over the past weeks, in this column, we have addressed the almost overwhelming challenges of fuel use and how they may bring about an overhaul of our lifestyles. It is a temptation to throw up our hands in despair over the enormity and complexity of the situation. Instead, let’s bring it home to our own backyard.
OK, here is a practical problem for us to ponder. How do we make our hometowns livable, sustainable communities? To ease into this complex question, let us take a look at our own lives. As it is now, we are essentially tied to using a vehicle to go pretty much anywhere. So, here’s the question: What kind of a life do you want to live in the future when, for whatever the reason, your opportunity to drive a car is gone? This may be caused by gasoline being restricted or your eyesight deteriorating. You can’t drive a car in either scenario.
Are you still with me?
What would you rather do? You could get up, walk a block, have breakfast with friends, walk to work and stop at a grocery store before returning home. Or, would you prefer to call a friend or family member to pick you up and take you to the shopping center?
In large cities like Washington, D.C., and New York, within every four blocks, one can find almost everything a person needs. These are walking communities that provide mass transit as a way to travel greater distances. Now, we probably won’t ever have a high-speed rail in Harrison Country, but we can have towns where people can get around on bikes or legs without having to sacrifice their independence or quality of life.
I, for one, don’t want to be a prisoner in my own home who must rely on other people to drive me about. I want to lean on my fence and talk to neighbors, stroll over to the library, walk to a community center or activity and then go home and take a nap at my own convenience. I call this a green community. It can grow and flourish, and so can we.
Now, as we look ahead at our own communities, what do we envision? Do we want to work close to home as new technologies sometimes allow, or do we want to sleep in one state and work in another? A complete community has more than good stores. It also has accessible medical care, top-notch schools, churches, libraries, community centers and housing. The city planners called ‘new urbanists’ know this. They are designing whole new, complete-from-scratch communities out in cornfields in the suburbs.
Look at us: We already have the infrastructure and the hub of our towns. All we need to do is fill in the blanks. We should explore what we have in place and what we are lacking. Good city planning can determine the way we live.
The Harrison County Tourism Commission and its partner organization, Main Street Corydon Inc., have been moving along in their planning for the use of the old Keller site in central Corydon. Their proposals include plans for an amphitheater, conference center, museum and hotel.
The property offers a big opportunity, one that could set the course for all of us in the years to come. We need to discuss how the development can be utilized to benefit our residents’ quality of life. It is one community. We all support each other. We all need to plan and work together. It is a real life matter of energy usage. And it is our decision! We, as a community, can choose what kind of a place we want to call home.
What an exciting time we live in. Let’s not look at the buildings downtown as simply something on the tax rolls but as places that will provide the backgrounds for our everyday living. Sure, downtown Corydon is swell for tourists, but most residents live here 365 days a year. How about making it work better for all of us by creating an environment that improves our lives and saves energy?
I think this is what columnist Thomas Friedman means when he says, ‘A revolution is underway. The message appears to be about a new green economy, but it’s really about a new America. It’s about recognizing that abandoning the old ways of doing business for the new energy economy is actually good business sense, political sense and humanitarian sense. If we don’t solve the energy technology issue, the chances of our children enjoying the same living standard as ourselves is zero.’
Let’s call a town meeting and talk about it!