We want the airwaves, baby

By David Parkinson

A bee gathering nectar from the fruit of a young Oregon grape blossom.

A bee gathering nectar from the fruit of a young Oregon grape blossom. Now think of the nectar as information and the bee as the medium of transmission.

Like any place, this region has its hidden stories. We cling to the obvious facts that lie on the surface, but often the really interesting history and conversations in the community lie below that surface. There are so many conversations and concerns that hang out in obscure corners of the community and it’s not always easy to understand what they’re about or who the players are. Part of the fun for us newcomers is figuring out who does what and where, what works and what doesn’t and why, and how we fit in to all of that.

Back in November of 2007, Powell River Legacy brought some people to Powell River from West Coast Environmental Law for some legal consultations related to the Catalyst landfill in Wildwood. While these people were in town, PR Legacy organized a town-hall meeting as an opportunity to bring together members of various groups concerned in one way or another with the local environment. I remember this as an extremely valuable chance to meet and talk with some unsung heroes of the region who were working hard behind the scenes to protect watersheds or forested areas or species at risk, as well as the quality of our land, air, and water.

In one evening I learned a huge amount about what goes on out there, outside the range of what is usually covered in the local media. And because that evening was not documented (at least I don’t believe that it was), all of that information is now lost — or is scattered around the region as it was before.

In order for us to start telling and hearing coherent stories about our region, we need to converse about what is really important, to learn from one another, and to preserve the knowledge and wisdom that these conversations produce. This came up last night, at a gathering I attended, where someone who is new to town was expressing her frustration at how hard it was to get a good picture of the region and the various initiatives and struggles going on out there. There is something to be said for having to go out and do your own legwork in hunting down the information you want to know; but there is also something to be said for assembling as much information as possible in one place, whether online or off. I know that I am still constantly learning about what is going on around here and who the players are.

I started this blog as an effort in that direction. I hoped and still hope that it might come to be a place where people think of going in order to learn more about what is going on in the ‘alternative’ or ‘progressive’ community. I hope that more people might be enticed to write about their own concerns and get the information that matters to them out to a wider audience. I continue to hope that we can get our community radio station up and running again, since this sort of alternative news and public affairs programming is exactly the sort of thing that community radio is good at disseminating.

But, as I have written about before, we need to think about working in as many media as we can. My work in literacy makes me aware of how non-print-oriented many people are. And instead of just deploring that fact and moving on, we can address it and try to deal with it directly. That’s why I have been thinking about podcasting lately. And I now have a small digital recorder, so I’m ready to start going.

I have a few ideas for gathering material from around the region and giving it a permanent home on the internet. My goal is to interview the people who are working on projects that should be more widely known, whether that project has to do with preserving some aspect of the natural environment, working for social justice, helping people adapt to changing circumstances in the face of peak oil or economic decline, or whatever it might be. I don’t intend to make this a super-slick commercial-friendly podcast. I’ll be happy if the resulting conversations fill a niche in the local mediascape and supply information which is not currently getting out there. What I really want is to start assembling an archive of voices, personalities, projects, hopes, dreams, fears, and whatever else goes to make up the messy sprawling work of building a community. And many of these conversations will coalesce around the ongoing work of developing a vision of a low-carbon future for this region, and therefore they will tap into the Transition effort which is just now getting going.

I hope I can create, in collaboration with some of the secret heroes of the community, a series of conversations full of information and good ideas for the future of the region. The work of engaging with the world, identifying problems, and working on solutions is sometimes lonely and discouraging work. It helps to know that there are many others out there whose existence or work you might be unaware of, who are likewise toiling in obscurity to plug one tiny leak in the world. By getting these conversations out in the open, I hope to create connections between people and groups which might otherwise not know about one another.

I have a few people in mind to get me started. But if anyone reading this has a suggestion for someone I ought to talk to, please point me in the right direction. Or if you would like to be the subject of one of these conversations, let me know. And stay tuned: Slow Coast is going on the air… soon.


Post facto

June 2009
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