There are so many realities, paradigms, truths, and facts fighting for my consciousness and attempting to direct my actions that it is easy to be overcome by cognitive dissonance. Issues like climate change, fossil fuel depletion, government debt, personal debt, water shortages, de-industrialization, and the loss of topsoil to name just a few are clearly significant issues.
If one takes just the issue of climate change, at this point over 97% of peer reviewed papers on the issue arrive at the conclusion that global warming is man-made. Within that cohort there are highly qualified individuals who believe that we have already passed a tipping point and that the impacts of global climate change will not only be severe, but that those effects will be seen sooner rather than later and that they will likely lead to near total human die-off. What seems to be a larger group of qualified experts, perhaps still the minority, see the tipping point as not too far off, but believe that fossil energy use must be curtailed severely, immediately cut in half, in order to avoid catastrophic consequences. They go so far as to claim that even the rapidly depleting fossil fuel resources that could be extracted and used to perpetuate modern civilization cannot all be burned.
So on the one hand we have the debate over whether or not fracking and the tar sands are (relatively speaking) environmentally safe, and able to extract large enough quantities of energy over a sustained period of time to perpetuate business as usual. If not, then it’s fairly clear that an “energy cliff” looms. On the other hand, everyone agrees that the processes which are required to create usable carbon energy from the Bakken, the Marcellus shale, and the Alberta tar sands require much more energy input than traditional extraction and production techniques, and just the CO2 put into the atmosphere from using these resources on the consumer end will put us over the top vis a vis climate change. And this is just scratching the surface of either issue.
The truth is that, if one just looks at the handful of topics listed above, one can see that any serious treatment of any one of them requires an understanding of most of the others in order to be at all thorough. Given the complexity and uncertainty involved with each issue what that means is that chaos theory is really all anyone has left to fall back on. I can’t possibly know how these interrelated concepts will impact one another with sufficient certainty to select a coherent plan of action, especially when one adds to all of this the tendency of the mind to view preferred options as more likely even when the evidence is contradictory.
This all comes from what I see as an enormous internal conflict I’m experiencing. One of the reasons I chose to by a home in a walkable neighborhood close to public transportation, a regional rail hub, and, potentially, a navigable river, is that I see an increase in the energy costs related to transportation especially increasing dramatically in the relatively near term. I’ve behaved in certain ways based on that belief. Beyond that I’ve invested around $20,000 in making my home more energy efficient, and I’m trying to alter my employment situation such that I can walk to work. All of these decisions can also be seen as just generally “good” even if the prediction of much higher future energy costs never takes place. And, as is obvious from the blog, I want to live downtown anyway (See “Motivated Reasoning”?), but what about my attitude regarding the MGM plan for the South End?
On almost every other issue I see things, with a nod to the aforementioned chaos theory, from a radical environmental point of view. My focus is local, community oriented, and is generally anti-corporate, anti “business-as-usual”. Whence cometh then my passion for the MGM plan? Memento mori. I’ve been watching, waiting, at times actively participating in what I’ve hoped would be a process of renovation and revitalization of my community. As I look back now I see that I have been engaged in this for 35 years, and while, yes, of late I have seen some very tender “green shoots” of slight incremental improvement, most of the last 3 1/2 decades have seen decline and decay. I have to admit that not only is there no inevitability to my city’s comeback that, even should it arrive, it could very well be too late for me to ever experience it.
I prefer incrementalism, I prefer taking the long view, but given that casino development is inevitable in this part of the state, for good or for ill, I can’t help but see this as not only incorporating so much of what I’ve always wanted to see returning to the downtown (none of which includes “gaming”), but the design is so nearly perfect with respect to its “urbanism” that, even should the “casino” concept fail(whatever that might mean), the programming could be changed to reflect whatever the city needs.
Incremental change can, should, and hopefully will continue to occur not only including the green shoots, but also the renovated intermodal transportation center. If everything comes crashing down, and I mean the “everything” which my opening paragraph implies, then nothing matters in the long run, and whatever faux prosperity can be experienced for whatever temporary period will have to be its own reward. If, on the other hand, human ingenuity happens to steer civilization through these hazardous times, then this one huge step forward for the city could be not just a game changer but a complete course redirection.