A few days ago the Otrey township supervisor stopped by our farm to let us know the road had been washed out to the south of our farm. Not a huge problem since we can get off our farm by going north. Then on Monday, the flood waters washed out the road to the north of us. We were landlocked.
From my point of view it is a grand adventure-- Headline: "Prairie Family Landlocked on Farm." Mike didn't find it anywhere near as invigorating as I did. In fact, it gave him nightmares. Within a day or so the water was down, the county brought in a few loads of gravel, and we were mobile once more. Hardly even an inconvenience. Since it is still April, there's still every hope that we'll be able to get crops in the field in good time.
As it turns out, one of the reasons I had to drive away from my lovely farm was to get to a meeting at the U of M's Center for Transportation Studies. The juxtaposition of having washed out township and county roads at the exact same time that I have to drive to this prestigious Center to discuss sustainable transportation over the next 25 years is priceless.
I am grateful for good roads. I am grateful for a responsive and caring township and county. I am grateful for the speed and comfort of individual car transportation. I don't take it for granted-- at least not all of the time.
But how can we as a society continue to support the extensive transportation infrastructure that we have? Oil is at $112.12 a barrel at this moment. Our asphalt roads are, simply put, concentrated hard packed oil. Besides which, I do not believe that the earth is a gooey nougat of unlimited oil. We're going to have to rethink this sooner or later. Maybe our gravel roads are easier to maintain and I am THANKFUL that they are, but really-- we are the only family living on this road. Those two flood washed out road repairs-- they will be done for us and for all practical purposes, only us.
I got into a fight on a RUPRI (Rural Policy Research Institute) call last month. It was a nationwide call to talk about the opportunities and impacts of renewable energy on rural communities. I said "hey! this is our chance to discuss how we can build communities around the sources of renewable energy. Instead of building the infrastructure to bring energy from it's source (like our windy prairie) to concentrated populations areas (big cities), we can bring people to live where the energy is." Oh boy! That started the sparks flying. And when the argument got too hot, I was accused of not understanding the Laws of Physics. How do you spell "p-shaw"? Seems to me that it is the Law of the Center Sucking from the Periphery. The flow of resources is unidirectional- to centers of power. Enough already.
If I had my druthers, I'd build up this rural renewable energy system with a switch that says "Us First." When energy gets to be in short supply, we flick the switch and keep our own lights on. Then watch as the people start flowing out the cities and to places like Buffalo Ridge, where they can still keep up on Facebook because the juice is stilling running there.
Well, here's hoping the roads are good enough that they can still reach us. Or maybe, I'll be happy to be land locked with a nice steady turbine blowing in the breeze.
[KJD Notes: This post may be a big more vitriolic than I actually feel. I suspect I'm affected by the closing this week of Minnesota Rural Partners. We lost another great advocated for thriving rural places....]