Can a small town compete with a “cool” city? So many books have been written about the creative economy and what it is that our next generation is looking for in a place to live. Is it a Starbucks on every corner, is it an exciting nightlife or is it the large array of shopping outlets? Richard Florida in his book “Rise of the Creative Class” is adamant about his belief that all cities aspire to lure that “creative class” of individual, and to do that we need creative environments and stimulating places to live and work. But honestly, how do small towns compete with this?
Having lived on a farm as a youngster, I have this love of the country that just won’t quit. I think there are quite a few people that are so afflicted. I have a good friend, a city “boy” from Connecticut, who bought a place in the country several years ago, and he and his wife have now moved to their acreage and they both love it. Instead of selling stocks and bonds, he is now raising rabbits and chickens.
Unpublished Journal, Feb. 15, 1992
Polk was only seven years old when Dad and Mom Alfred and their four children moved to the new town at the urging of Rev. F.E. Benjamin, pastor of Polk’s First Baptist Church. Rev. Benjamin was a builder of communities and churches. The idea that there might be a “Second” Baptist Church and that Polk might become a city had a strong hold on the residents’ hopes and imaginations. Reality finally set in, but that was twenty years later with the Great Depression and drought of the 1930s.
As often said, a picture can say it all. This summer that image was electronic video capture a mile below the sea surface. It contained a twisted heap of metal from which a brackish jet plume of long-deceased ancient life spewed forth. The ugliness of the scene was immediate and visceral. Both the corporate and federal responses seemed inadequate and frustrated us. Maybe a deeper, more commonly shared frustration is that the Deepwater Horizon spill was one of those instances when we humans are reminded that our attempts to control the Earth can be illusory. Technology, expertise and good intentions can’t protect us from ourselves 100 percent of the time.
We’ve come a long way since Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson organized the first Earth Day in 1970, providing a tangible starting point for the modern environmental movement while developing a framework for action that we adhere to even now. We’ve come a long way since he first recognized that this framework requires equal elements of both education and activism, necessitates dedication and commitment and employs a brand of foresight and selflessness that is unique in modern society.
As might be imagined, the implementation requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act 1969 as described in this issue of Prairie Fire sent a variety of shock waves through the federal bureaucracy. But some agencies without the “benefit” of the many subsequent court interpretations of the act proceeded to fulfill these requirements straightforward as they saw them.
These excerpts from my “Bird Journal” tell of the joys we’ve had from planting shrubs and trees “for the birds.” When my partner and I moved into our newly built home in the East Campus area of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), she suggested that we plant only trees and shrubs that would provide natural food for the birds. I was skeptical, but we (mostly) did that, and found that “if you plant it, they will come.” We choose not to have birdfeeders, but many birds live in and feed in our yard; we’ve seen 62 species of birds in the 17 years we’ve lived here.
Nebraskans are fortunate to have a wide variety of turtles to observe. They occupy most habitats throughout the state. From the arid west to the Sandhills, to the wetlands of the Rainwater Basin and the mighty Missouri River in the east and everywhere in between, these ancient survivors continue to add to their 230-million-year-old story.