Rural sustainability in America can be attained. The majority of the green/sustainable movement has been concentrated in the urban centers – and we have to spread, fast.  Right now, we’re at risk of a civil war in this country – it’s crucial that we intermingle, create dialogue, and build bridges across the gaps.

There’s currently a movement sweeping the country – the anger that’s been fueled (in part) by Fox News and the Tea Party has grown exponentially, and it’s  impacted national politics.  There’s a growing cynicism and anger with the greenies I meet as well – folks on both sides are fed up and frustrated. Powerful emotions are flaring up, and people are going to get burned.

I moved down to Douglas County, one of the largest and poorest counties in Oregon.  I reluctantly left Portland and its microbrews, bookstores, and bikepaths behind, and traded them in for a trailer in the woods.  I found a caretaker position at Alder Creek Community Forest, a baby organization that wants to catalyze change and provide “a place for lifelong learning.”  Now I have 78 acres and 3.5 miles of trails all to myself, in exchange for volunteering to help this organization to grow.  Sound good?  It is.

Douglas County was described to me as “the battleground between environmentalists and loggers over the largest tract of old-growth forest left in the country,” but that may be a slightly dramatized version of the story.  Since I’ve gotten here, I learned that at its height, the timber industry employed somewhere between 40-75% of the county directly, and still employs 25-30% of the active workers.  Estimates of unemployment range from 15-25% in this county, depending on who you ask.

When I started asking questions about the “battle” between the environmentalists and loggers, I was told that it’s relatively moot at this point in time.  The price of lumber is so low that the costs eat up any profit, so landowners are holding on to trees.  Most of the big mills have shut down, and the ones that operate now have found leaner operations to sustain themselves – automation has probably done more to reduce timber jobs than any other factor.  I was told that “mills are processing exponentially more timber for significantly less cost” than they once were, but that “greedy corporate fatcats” told the workers that the environmentalists were to blame for the loss of jobs.  That story still sticks – “the hippies took our jobs!” is much easier to swallow than “I need to enhance my skills to keep up with a rapidly evolving technological society.”

So greenies – if you really want to help Momma Earth, join the quiet revolution and leave the intellectual fortress behind.  Ditch the cities and come out to the sticks.  Don’t preach your beliefs – grab a shovel and a paintbrush, and get to work.  Be a model of the behavior you want to see.  Do your country and your Momma a favor and start a green business where one doesn’t exist.

If you’re a solopreneur like me, this is even easier.  All I need to work is my cell phone, my laptop, and an internet connection.  The DSL isn’t as fast out here, but my desk has a great view.

Who knows, you might find out you love country living.  The air is clean, there’s plenty of trees, and there’s great art supplies – tons of old junk that needs fixing up.  The DIY spirit has been popping up all over the cities, but DIY is a way of life out here.  Country folks are resilient, tough, and kind-hearted.  People stick together out here, because cooperation is a survival skill.

If you don’t need to live in a city, quit!  Start exploring, and leave the smog and congestion behind.  The economy has ravaged these places, and foreclosures are cheap.  You can buy an old bar in Riddle, Oregon for $75,000 – and that’s just the asking price.  There’s a whole amusement park for sale off I-5!  Who hasn’t wanted to own their own roadside attraction?

Sustainable solopreneurs – you know who you are.  Join me, and help spread the love as we grow a new way of life together.  Leave the city behind, and get a little closer to your country roots.  Do it for your Momma.

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