by, 11-28-2011 at 11:33 AM (716 Views)
This was a short essay written in my First-Year Seminar, "USA: The Natural Experiment." It's basically "how did we screw up the environment and where do we go from here?" We study the environment from historical, economic, political, conservational, (et cetera) perspective. In the first week of class, we took a bike ride around town and came upon a tiny, abandoned kitten. Our professor stopped the entire class so that a friend and I could rescue said kitten and rerouted our course so that we could stop by a veterinary clinic and drop her off. The essay focuses on speed in the American economy and culture. Enjoy!
Too fast—the cars were going too fast to see the kitten, or even hear its tiny cries for help. Mew! I’m hungry. Mew! I am afraid. None of us knows how may hours the tiny kitten cried in a bush or how she ended up there. It wasn’t until late in the hot afternoon that a bicycling class of college freshmen led by an adventurous professor would come and find the helpless baby.
It wasn’t that the commuters were hard-hearted, nor was it that they wouldn’t have stopped. Most were simply unaware, and such is the risk of speed. We miss out on a lot, the faster we are. We cannot notice problems. Like in driving, wherein it is harder to stop for a child who runs into the street while flying down the road at 70 miles per hour than it is at 35 miles per hour.
Our economy is too fast, and too global. Instead of using local businesses, we reach for the comfort of familiarity and lower prices of large chain stores. Orr uses an example of Oberlin, Ohio to illustrate his point, but the concept is both universal and localized: even Deland has its own version of the same story.
A McDonalds crops up first, and then a Walmart. The corporations move in, “to the periphery where land is cheaper and zoning regulations are more lax” (Orr 46). The automobile bridges the gap between homes and businesses, where once the proximity of downtown small businesses served the same purpose.
Not only does this kill the small business, but it also makes the population rely undeniably on the automobile. Where once you could walk from home or park in a community parking lot and run by the post office, grocery story, and flower shop by foot, people must drive long distances to get to any one store.
Additionally, local businesses receive a serious blow. “Money does not stay in the local economy for long,” Orr explains. “Hence the multiplier effect or the number of times a dollar is spent in the local economy before being used to purchase something outside is low” (Orr 46).
In downtown Deland, businesses don’t hire in the summer time. As a matter of fact, it is a miracle if a business even survives the long, hot days without any customers. It is not a matter of growth; it is a matter of survival.
In our economy today, if we are not growing exponentially, we suspect that something is wrong with the business. Large corporations grow, and are expected to grow steadily. We do not understand a system where a successful company is defined as one that is constant, or even slow growing.
And so we don’t hear people crying out in homelessness, loneliness, fear, desperation; we don’t hear businesses cry out in the scorching summer months and economic droughts. Mew! I’m hungry. Mew! I am afraid.