Traverse City Record-Eagle

Record-Eagle 150th Anniversary

November 8, 2009

Joe VanderMeulen: Plan for six generations

We need to look forward across six or more generations of people to see 150 years into the future.

What wonderful changes there may be, if we choose wisely, just get lucky, or some of both. Of course, we face many threats to our security and survival. The risks of deadly pandemics, global climate change and unimaginable wars are real.

Regionally, we could simply yield to the temptations of short-term gain, turning this incredibly beautiful land of farms, hills, rivers, lakes, forests, welcoming cities and quaint villages into an impossible maze of garish tourist attractions, thick with pollution and businesses with no sense of place.

I choose a more optimistic vision of the future.

Future generations will learn how to adapt to a new climate and change our patterns of living. We will learn how to generate energy cheaply from the sun and wind.

The Grand Traverse region will be home to many more people living mostly in compact villages and cities separated by dense, lush forests and intensively farmed lands. Electricity generation will be built into everything -- roofs, walls, and clothing.

We will travel between urban centers on fast, electric transit systems that link and de-couple our personal vehicles robotically. We will live longer, healthier lives, thanks to advances in nanotechnology and robotics. There will a massive resurgence of creative expression using natural and digital materials.

And there will be a cleaner Lake Michigan jeweled with thriving wetlands and sprawling beaches that draw us to the shore as they have for centuries.

Joe VanderMeulen, Ph.D., is executive director of the Land Information Access Association, a nonprofit community service organization formed in 1991 to help citizens participate more effectively in community development decisions, emphasizing preservation of cultural and natural resources.

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