Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rules for Local Distinctiveness

Location: Nederland, CO 80466, USA
Local rock with mining artifacts used to make a fence/wall
As we went through a year and a half process of creating our community-wide vision, a broad theme emerged about the local distinctiveness of Nederland, which was reflected in one of the opening statements from Envision 2020:
Our community proudly maintains its small-town feel and distinct identity – a small is beautiful, less is more approach. While our town has grown, we have remained true to our origins while internalizing a model of sustainability in which a healthy society comes from a healthy economy and a healthy environment is essential for both.
Local Distinctiveness is so prominent, that we even have our own Time Zone, but it was difficult to describe in the Envision 2020 process. Oftentimes resorting to anecdotal evidence like, "Nederland is a place where you are less likely to impress someone with a Lexus, and more likely to impress them with your knowledge of foraging for morels, or capability of tele-skiing Mt. Toll."
[See Related StoryThe Ned Time Zone]
So, in order to examine Nederland's local distinctiveness, I've expanded the NederMayor blog to include the NedSpotlight tab at the top of this page. The purpose of NedSpotlight is to highlight the people, places and things of Nederland that make it uniquely authentic. I am looking for guest bloggers to write stories about Nederland from less obvious nooks and crannies of our community.

Addressing the Homogenization of America:

Distance to the nearest McDonald's
Nederland is a culture that has evolved on its own, determined to avoid the Homogenization of America as shown in this 2009 visualization of the U.S. by the distance to the nearest McDonald's by Stephen Von Worley. Click on the photo for more details

Our isolated topography has an added benefit. Nederland had been quarantined from the Affluenza epidemic that has occurred across most of middle America. If you are unsure of exactly what Affluenza is, here is the full Affluenza Documentary Video explaining it.

So, we know what we don't want to do, but what do we want to do? Nederland Mayor Pro-Tem, Kevin Mueller, provided an excellent example with Common Ground's Rules for Local Distinctiveness.

Rules for Local Distinctiveness:

Common Ground is an organization based in Shaftesbury, Dorset, England (coincidentally home to the scenic Gold Hill road) Here is the Mayor of Shaftesbury, Simon Pritchard.
Common Ground describes itself as:

"Internationally recognized for playing a unique role in the arts and environmental fields, distinguished by the linking of nature with culture, focusing upon the positive investment people can make in their own localities, championing popular democratic involvement, and by inspiring celebration as a starting point for action to improve the quality of our everyday places."
Here are some excerpts from the Common Ground Rules for Local Distinctiveness:

  • Fight for AUTHENTICITY and integrity. Keep places lived in, worked in and real. Demand the BEST of the new.
  • CHANGE things for the better. Not for the sake of it!
  • Let the CHARACTER of the people and place express itself. Kill corporate identity before it kills our high streets. Give local shops precedence.
  • Defend DETAIL. Respond to the local and the vernacular. No new building or development need be bland, boring or brash.
  • ENHANCE the natural features – rivers and brooks, hills and valleys, woods and heaths. Never let a stream be 'culverted' out of sight and open to abuse.
  • We need ENCHANTMENT, clear streams as well as clean water in our daily lives.
  • Take the place's FINGERPRINT. Forget words such as resource, site, customers and the public. Abstractions lead us astray. Think and talk about places and people.
  • Get to know your GHOSTS. The hidden and unseen stories and legends are as important as the visible.
  • Don 't fossilize places. HISTORY is a continuing process, not just the past. Celebrate time, place and the seasons with Feasts and Festivals.
  • Work for local IDENTITY. Oppose mono-culture in our fields, parks, gardens and buildings. Resist formulaic and automatic ordering from pattern books which homogenize and deplete.
  • JETTISON your car whenever you can and go by public transport. Places are for people and nature not cars. Cars can detach us from places and unwittingly allow their destruction.
  • Know your place. Facts and surveys are not the same as KNOWLEDGE and wisdom. Itinerant expertise needs to meet with aboriginal, place based knowledge so we can make the best of both worlds.
  • Buy things that are LOCALLY DISTINCTIVE and locally made – such as food and souvenirs. Resist the things that can be found anywhere.
  • Get to know your place intimately. Search out PARTICULARITY & PATINA help add new layers of interest. Personality often resides in SUBTLETY and idiosyncrasy. Look closely and often.
  • QUALITY cannot be quantified. You know when something is important to you – make subjective and emotional arguments. Don't be put off because the professionals have marginalized all the things they can't count. Make them listen and look.
  • REVEAL the geology. Use the brick and stone of the locality. Reinforce the color, patterns, craftsmanship and work of the place.
  • Get things in proportion and in SCALE. Every place has its own distinctive dimensions.
  • VALUE your own values! Democracy thrives on discussion about things that matter to us. Let the experts in on your terms.
  • Slowdown, wisdom comes through WALKING, talking and listening.
  • Exile XENOPHOBIA which fossilizes places and peoples. Welcome cultural diversity and Vive la Différence.
  • ZONING and segregation kill places! If industry is bad enough to be hidden should it exist at all?
If you are inspired by the Rules for Local Distinctiveness, and are so inclined to write a guest blog post in NedSpotlight, please send me a note.

[Here is a Video Valediction] This is a Ned favorite worldbeat band, Eufórquestra from Fort Collins, performing Soup (2009) They will be playing NedFest this Saturday, August 24 at 4:00pm. [What is a Video Valediction?]
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