By Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
I live in both the Village and Upstate. Unlike Aesop’s two friends, the city mouse and the country mouse, I love both parts of my unbordered life. Whenever I think about the Village, I contemplate an older New York, one which was not too big not to fail. Whenever I think about the Hudson Valley, I envision that ubiquitous green map with the Hudson zipper up its middle. Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Sullivan on one side and Ulster, Rockland, Orange on the other.
Sometimes I think that all I have done is travel from West to East, Ulster to Dutchess. I wonder if that has generated enough miles to warrant a magnitude. I was born in Ulster and now “weekend” and “summer” in Dutchess. I also go up and down the ribbon to work here in this marvelous village, nesting within a great city. I have a native streak, up and down the Hudson of my birth and my present. I think of this area as a fluid region, not a strict upstate or downstate zone.
Other times, I realize that I have been all around the world, most recently, and bashfully, using frequent flyer miles to attend the UNCOP21 conference on climate change. This is where we carbon sinners gathered to cleanse ourselves. Notably on that venture, I spent one night in Iceland (my first visit there) and did not have the vodka for breakfast.
Now, let me recall a few United Nations-type issues and sub-topics. Global warming. Whether wine can be grown if sea level temperatures rise above 2 degrees Celsius. That seemed to be particularly important to the wine shops near the conference center, which were frequented by a dazzling array of internationals. Whether people should demonstrate in the streets or not, given the terrorist incident that occurred two weeks before the monumental international conference began. The people responded by placing their shoes in the street. That struck me as nearly as innovative as the ideas circulating in the conference display area. Their imagination reminded me of the inventive brainpower of my Village home.
To get a free smoothie, you could bike to provide the energy to power the blender. To charge your cell phone, you could do the same. To drink coffee from a packet made of completely recycled materials, you could visit a booth that both pouched the coffee in friendship with the environment and also grew oyster mushrooms using the same post-natural material. I know where to find oyster mushrooms in each of the above named counties but not everyone has the privilege of living there. I also transport my mushroom finds to Village restaurants; they even pay for them.
The most exciting idea at the conference came from the “Green leap frog strategy.” It argued that second and third world countries could circumvent the old fossil fuel-based economy and their jobs and arrive at all green energy solutions. They would simply have to skip the Industrial Revolution. It occurred to me that we could do that Upstate as well, especially since many people south of us already view us as primitive other worlders. Plus, we have the land. The Village is also considered a little bit different, thank God. We are also oddly out in the great high rise of New York City. Imagination and land? Who needs anything else?