Hard times and value shifts
Twisted as it may sound, there are clear gains to be made from this Great Recession, especially in the eyes of a regionalist like myself. Planners are all too aware of the massive infrastructure projects that will be given the go-ahead for their stimulative economic properties (meaning more need for planning staff), but that’s not really what I’m talking about. Instead, this is really about values.
I’m a fan of structural change. In fact, though it probably earns me a reputation as a boundless idealist, I find concentrated alteration of the systems and infrastructure which frame society more reasonable than any deliberate effort to shift public consciousness. As planners, we can only empower people to make prudent decisions, but must accept that social values are uneasily moved. This said, a pharmacist in Alabama has given me a little hope.
NBC news ran the following story on Danny Cottrell of Brewton, AL.
Beyond Cottrell’s generosity, what is most heartening is a very sensible return to localism in these difficult times. In a way, Cottrell’s distribution of $2 bills (which are uncommon in the US), serves the same purpose as many local currencies: to reconnect people to a meaning of commerce that places society above individual wealth. Will the bills eventually slip out of the Brewton economy? Almost certainly, but if Cottrell’s sensibilities led him to a local solution, others might draw similar conclusions. Perhaps we can hope such values will take firmer root.