Why “local” matters now more than ever

Ingrid Steinberg  JANUARY 14, 2021

January 5th was my ten-year-old son’s birthday. His day started with chocolate birthday cake batter falling and being plastered onto every conceivable surface across our kitchen. It ended with a pipe bursting in the street outside our house, resulting in severe flooding followed by an overnight water shut-off. At the end of the day my son turned to me and said: “Mom, wasn’t 2021 supposed to be better than 2020?” 

 

That was January 5th. The events of January 6, 2021 will be emblazoned on our memories and psyches forever. Many of us are glued, as we have been for months now, to news from the national stage. Local concerns and endeavors (at least those not directly related to dealing with the Covid crisis) can seem like an unnecessary and futile distraction. And yet I believe that local community engagement has never been more important. 

 

For many years our nation has been afflicted by a disease far more deadly than Covid-19. It is a disease of community breakdown, rampant self-interest, winner-takes-all inequality and caste-based tribalism. What we need now as a nation is for people to come together in friendship to unite, not in service to an ideology, but in service to all.

 

Resilient Palisades aims to address a global problem – the climate and ecological crisis – by undertaking personal and communal change at the local level, and by advocating for better policies at the city and regional level. But we are not just an idea. We are neighbors and friends who are building and strengthening our local community in a spirit of service to something bigger than ourselves. We want to do our part to address an urgent crisis that needs to be faced head-on at every level of society. We understand that, to have a meaningful impact, we must do this work together

 

My family has weathered the Covid crisis and lockdown in part by collectively embarking on obsessive journeys through fantasy novel series – reading the books, watching the movies, doing the puzzles, you name it. Our latest foray has been J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. One of the reasons Tolkien’s mythology has had such staying power is because his themes transcend time and are applicable to our own situation. In The Lord of the Rings, four hobbits (“halflings” or small people) set out on a seemingly hopeless quest to destroy a great ring of power and thereby save Middle Earth, their world. How do such unlikely protagonists succeed? 

 

We learn that the hobbits are powered, not by great ambition or heroic impulse, but by something much more basic. They undertake the journey out of friendship to one another and out of a deep and abiding love for their home region, the Shire, which they seek to protect. At each step along the way, it is the hobbits’ enduring love for their home, for one another, and for the other companions in their fellowship that sustains them and gives them the courage to carry on with a mission that, until the very end, hangs on the finest of threads. 

 

In facing up to the multiple crises our nation and the world is now confronting, we need to harness all of the courage, determination, and faith that the hobbits exhibited. Like them, we will not have the strength for this task without the love and support of our friends and our Palisades community. And we will need to hold central not only the abstract ideals for which we work, but also our love for one another.

 

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