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Greene: Hitchhiking The Info Highway

09/06/11 5:55PM By Stephanie Greene
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(HOST) As the floodwaters began to recede, commentator Stephanie Greene has found herself contemplating what it means to have connections - both the local kind, and the virtual kind.

(GREENE) Michelle Bachman said Hurricane Irene was a wake up call for its victims. This is probably the only time I will ever agree with her on anything, even though I'm sure we differ on the interpretation - if not the letter - of her statement.

She may have in mind some sort of end-of-the-world scenario, but to me, Irene has meant reconnecting on a really local level. Destroyed roads stranded friends in neighboring towns like Wilmington and Wardsboro. These are towns I used to sail through in my car, en route to other, more glamorous places. Now I follow circuitous back roads to bring help and support, praying I won‘t meet a truck - or sinkhole.

Of course, locals can only do so much. We desperately need an enormous amount of material to fix roads, and the expert help to do it. So I was overjoyed, the other day, to see a convoy of National Guard dump trucks as they headed up route 100 toward Wardsboro. I waved and blew kisses like a crazed Miss America .

Post Oil solutions, is a Brattleboro - based non-profit whose mission is to transition our area into an economy independent of fossil fuels. According to them Vermont imports 95% of its food. If this emergency had prevented trucks from coming in, grocery stores would have been emptied in a week. This sobering statistic probably holds true for most of the nation as well. So it's no wonder that more people are putting in gardens, learning to build cold frames and raising livestock, getting serious about local sourcing of food and supplies.

Post Oil offers an ongoing workshop series called Relearning To Feed Ourselves that includes raising chickens, goats, sheep and gardening. They sponsor Brattleboro's Winter Farmer's Market, and are working on Neighborhood Markets in low income areas where residents can get local organic produce at wholesale prices. Post Oil's Farm to School project broadens the reach of their message by educating families about local food.

Since one of the hardest parts of living in rural Vermont can be the isolation, list serves can be a sanity - even a life - saver. Before Irene, I'd get Post Oil's emailed announcements of who had fresh berries for sale, guinea fowl or oxen, who needed mulch hay or farm help. It was fun! Post Irene, critical information on navigable roads, where to get water or access the Internet, or to offer help has turned up not only at Post Oil, but also on the local chamber of commerce website, and on individual Facebook pages.

Newcomers have always relied on the good will and advice of locals to educate themselves. Now, best practices, innovative approaches to old problems, even introductions, are accessible with a mouse click.

Life may not get any easier around here for awhile. Every generation, for different reasons, seems to have to reinvent the wheel. How fortunate we are to have the Internet - those of us who do have it. It lets us connect  to the resources and answers we so desperately need.



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