Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Beaver Falls Manifesto: Part 1

One of my employees/friends the other day chided me on having too many dreams. He had been speaking about his cheese obsession (2lbs per week, if I remember correctly). One thing about this area is that because of the hilly terrain, we have a lot of dairies, but no local artisan cheese. In fact, the closest I've seen is either Kraft (who knows where that comes from) or Cabot (Vermont, not exactly across the street). Part of the reason, of course, is the current low demand for local creameries and the ridiculous government intolerance of raw milk. He didn't chide me for the dream of good, local, dependable, and healthy milk, cream, and cheese; I daresay he may even enjoy the thought. He chided me, rather, for having the dreams of a local, independent market (too complex to describe at this time); a local ceramics industry (like the former Beaver Falls/Mayer China company--PA soil is basically all clay as it is); a local, sustainable timber industry (complete with draft horses); more coffeeshops (each with complete microroasting capabilities); and many more things (I can't think of others because I'm tired, not for lack of ideas). The health of any society is it's lack of dependence for necessities (and luxuries) on places far away. A city (or set of cities placed along a river) should be able to provide food, shelter, companionship/recreation, and clothing (the four foundations of culture) from within itself and its surrounding rural areas. The rural areas should be able to receive plenty of manure nutrients, cultural opportunities, and companionship from their dependents, the cities. This sort of urbanist-agrarian thought is what leads to a placed idea for Beaver Falls. It is one thing to be jonesed about an idea, but the practice is where we see if being more concerned about neighbors we can see, rather than GDP, is what makes the world a better place. So, here is the start of the Beaver Falls Manifesto--something I hope to expand in the future as a groundwork for rejuvenation here at home. So far, it will seem a series of disjointed propositions. My apologies for that, I'll give it a slicker look and feel when I can.

I. Beaver Falls (and the surrounding area, it should be assumed from here on out) is worthy of care and pride. The land, sky, and river around it have been created by God who calls us to exercise culture in beautification, production, and conservation of that place. To that end (as well as humans do that task), the cultural expression of the city was founded and itself is worthy of care and pride. It is currently marred by human greed, sloth, and covetousness; but God has called his people, the Church, to be leaders is restoring this world (and all its parts) to their original created purpose and glory.

II. Beaver Falls will never have a chance to attain to that purpose and glory if it (that is, the people who live in/near it and the people who "govern" it) continues its self-destructive behavior of wasteful consumption; production of cheap, disposable goods; and economic/agricultural/cultural dependence on non-local sources. Many seem to view Beaver Falls as incapable of being "better" (whatever that means) than Chippewa, Cranberry, or Pittsburgh because of its present state. However, economic indicators can no longer be the primary means of judgement: health, both human and non-human, must be the deciding factor. Can the way we live here now be sustained into the indefinite future without giving up local independece, knowledge, neighborliness, and "crisis-nimbleness"? If not, why not?

III. A future-orientation is absolutely essential to the rebuilding of this area. If we continue to run by the short-term profit motive, we will exhaust our soil, our air, our water, our animals, and ourselves before future generations can receive the gifts of soil, air, water, animals, and selfhood that has been passed down to us by previous generations. A gift-outlook, one that recognizes that with anything not absolutely owned (and only God owns anything absolutely) responsible care and "acting worthy of the gift" (that is, gratitude in its full sense), is essential for both short-term and long-term prosperity.

IV. Ownership is also necessary. A sense that what we have been given with continue with us through multiple generations is necessary for proper care of anything. Nothing, in the end, is disposable; someone always cleans up. This is not absolute ownership, but neither is it mooching. The principle of usufruct (something should be more valuable health-wise after leaving our care) should be fully enforced as a cultural mandate (not a government one, for it is a cultural concern not definable by the powers that be). Home ownership should be especially encouraged, for it roots a family in a neighborhood where real change is possible. If neighbors are healthy (in the varied ways that can be understood--the word 'salvation' comes from a word meaning health), then we are healthy and safe. Also, the principle of neighborhood increases practical wisdom in ownership, plus adds the benefit of more hands to help in case of emergency and everyday issues that accompany any cultural, human product (such as decay and "human error").

More to Come...


Jason said...

That fact that you're able to type anything after the "I'm tired" bit amazes me; once I start a post and reach that point, it dissolves into sentence fragments and unfiltered rambling. But you go and post something amazing.

(I'm printing this out and hanging it on the wall, by the way.)

R Gar said...

Hey Russ! Just wanted to let you know that I was writing a blog about the Church's role in cities, and I used a few lines from this blog. I made sure to link back to your blog too. Hope you don't mind. You can look at it at if you would like. Thanks!

Arianna Garofalo :)