September 1, 2011 —
When I was younger, I could not wait to get away from Honesdale, PA. Now that I have come and gone a few times, I’m torn about staying around here. I love this region, the land, the trees, the people. It’s my favorite place. As a recent college grad, you might think Northeast Pennsylvania holds little promise for me. I’d have said the same five years ago. But I’ve been employed around here for a few months, thanks to two local non-profits, Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support (SEEDS) and Transition Honesdale. I have to say, I have been pleasantly surprised by what I have found. There are people around here who are working daily to design and build a lifestyle for the future. If this local passion and action continues to grow, it will make my decision much easier, because along with it will come more practical opportunities for my generation.
At the age of 17, I became determined, for lack of a better phrase, to change the world. Climate change, peak energy, volatile economic systems, injustices around every corner… well, let’s just say I am of the belief that we will re-evaluate, re-imagine and re-build the way we live in the next few years. By doing so now, we have a better chance of creating a simpler and more fulfilling future for ourselves and whoever comes next. The changes that I (and many others) envision will require an incredible amount of work. We need to take systems that currently work in a money-based model and redesign them to work in the life-based world that we actually live in.
Don’t get the idea that I am overly optimistic. This sort of change is going to take creativity, engineering, planning and networking. We are talking about an enormous logistical puzzle that needs to be sorted out. And of course, it will take a lot of manual labor. When I hear that unemployment rates are rising or that my college-indebted friends can’t get a job, I just about lose it. There is so much work to be done!
We are told that individual actions can change the world. It’s true, they can, but only when combined with the efforts of others. Collective action on a regional scale: now that is where the real change will happen. When we stop trying to provide only for ourselves and start thinking about the community that surrounds us, that’s where the “transition” starts and when profound systematic changes begin. That’s when all the work that needs to be done is illuminated and becomes viable. That’s when my generation will be able to make a living, while finding inspiration and fulfillment, especially in this beautiful region. I hope.
It’s exciting to discover communities and organizations in Northeast Pennsylvania and New York that are facilitating this type of place-based education and community action. Groups that are bringing people together, getting them talking, dreaming, creating and building. Groups like these are changing paradigms, helping people and building the infrastructure for resilient future. If you want to make an impact, join one of these groups. Make your voice heard and challenge yourself and your friends to live a little lighter. Give my friends and me a bit of hope and a reason to stick around.
[Doni Hoffman graduated from Dickinson College with a B.A. in environmental studies. She works on and off for both Sustainable Energy Education Development Support (SEEDS) and Transition Honesdale. Her plans to remain in Honesdale are, as of yet, undecided.]