Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Time to Get Off the Tilt-A-Whirl by Scott Johnson

Photo by Taylor Lentz
Scott Johnson is probably the closest thing to a renaissance man I've ever known. He owns the Black Dog Coffee Shop and Legacy Outfitters in Logansport, Indiana, and is so generous to the arts community that none of us have ever figured out a good way to thank him. He hosts musicians and writers, provides a venue for classes, and--although he's ostensibly retired from teaching--teaches someone something every day. The Black Dog Writers is home to some of the best writing voices around--including his. 

Logansport, like every other small town around, needs money. Needs jobs. Needs industry. One such industry, WSP may be coming there. Or not. There are many articles about it, including the one linked here.

This is Scott's take on it. I like it a lot. I don't live in Logansport, or work there anymore, so I don't have a dog in the race, but if I did...well, I'm with Scott.

The whole WSP thing that is simmering in the background of this pandemic is a mess. I went back and read all of their social media posts…once. (I read them all as they were released but today I went back and read them consecutively…anyway) To produce a coherent argument and dissect each of these posts would take more energy than I have to give. I could hardly get through a paragraph without a feeling a bit ill from the constant spin. I rode the “Tilt-A-Whirl” once or twice as a kid…hated it every time…this situation calls up my memories of that experience…dizzy, a bit queasy, a little disoriented and each time I had to ask myself the question…why the hell did I buy a ticket to make myself feel like shit? It made no sense to me…pay money to make myself sick? No thank you.

Do I want a better, cleaner environment for our community? Yes, yes I do. I want our rivers to be what our community is known for… I always felt that we didn’t put near enough energy into capitalizing on our unique river dominated landscape. Do I want a higher quality of life in our community? Yes, yes I do. I want our community to be known for the artists and artisans who live among us. I want our community to be known for its music, and its diverse culture. I want our new restaurants to thrive…I want our new hotels to thrive…I want our schools to thrive and succeed….i want our children to know that the world is a place full of opportunity and I want our community to become a destination...yes a destination. A place where people want to come…a place that is welcoming, and interesting, and inspiring. When people visit us, I want them to leave thinking about when they might be able to come back. I want to leave people feeling better about the world then before we made their acquaintance.

Do I know about mercury and lead and zinc and other heavy metals? Do I know how it all impacts human health? Do I know how hard it is to clean up a polluted environment? Do I know what it takes to work safely…”sustainably” around this stuff? And more importantly do I know about environmental reporting and regulatory requirements? Do I know that environmental regulations can be changed in the future, loosened, lowered depending on political clout and with a simple stroke of a pen? Yes, I know a bit. Probably not much more than anyone else…but I know a bit.

I also know that we need good jobs in our community…and I know that we need to live in the modern world and this modern world comes with some pretty nasty stuff. Stuff like heavy metals…stuff like chemical emissions. I want it all I guess. What I really want is a modern world that does not rely on the fact that we have to pollute to progress…I want a world where we do not have to use the word “sustainable” in our corporate names to make people feel better about having them as neighbors.

Perhaps I am a dreamer. Perhaps I am. That is fine with me. Until we imagine a better world, a different path, we will never even recognize the opportunity to change course. Let us all imagine. And then let us all take action.

I don’t like to be spun around. I don’t want to pay to feel worse. Wisdom is composed of insight and intuition…the gut feeling. My gut is a little unsettled by a flawed process…and a flawed message. Now, I am stepping off the carnival ride...and going to find a good lemon shakeup.

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