When Marvin Gaye asked that question, he was wondering if we had lost our minds to violence and pointlessness. The people's answer at the time was redneck/conservative backlash -- hillbilly populism. And how did that work out for us?
Our current ball of confusion, the economic crisis, may be a defining moment come around once again. Holy crap, there may be some hope this time! There will be a lot of pain as the status quo just stops working, there will be loss, there will be blood. But we have, at this tipping point, a leader who gets it. You have been waiting a lifetime.
I noticed three places where constructive change is coming from the bottom up:
Greensburg, in western Kansas, is probably not a hothouse for growing progressive ideas or radical departures from the same ol'. But after being 100% flattened by a tornado, the locals decided to rebuild, and do it all green (and they already had the name!). Recycling rainfall, wind turbines, solar construction and panels, SIPs (structural insulated panels), walking paths, trees...
The knowledge has been there; the revolutionary thinking of the 60s was underground, not lost but growing all the while. And these regular folks just went for it; what looked like the end was an opportunity for a bold new beginning.
Today on the PBS news site two young men were featured whose mission is to establish a green initiative in Wilmington, Ohio, to help recovery from the loss of the main employer, DHL. They're trying to get stimulus funding to weatherize the county's buildings and houses, and create over 1000 jobs while saving energy expenditures people can't afford any more. They got their methodology from their Peace Corps experience and the micro-loan movement. The third world had arrived at home in Ohio -- no need to go to Ecuador to find it.
I get a kick out of how much California irritates the reactionaries. The ideas start there, just as the wind blows west to east. The city of Berkeley decided it was time to get solar and wind power out of the niche market and into the mainstream, so they now offer no-cost loans for these installations which can be paid back through tax bills (so it can be deducted on income tax?). I am short on details, but the point is a local entity stopped just talking and got moving.
Sadly, around here, I didn't see any green applications in the big new township government and services complex just opened, or in the many new schools, or in the thousands of new McMansions.
You've got to ask: What if? Why not?
WEEKEND UPDATE, 3/15/09: The Palmyra school district (near Hershey) just announced their new school will be built green, even LEED certified! And a builder in Carlisle built a superinsulated house, using the soy-based spray foam insulation that way outperforms fiberglas. The home, alas, is 2400 square feet, which is absurdly big.
Several other cities in California and a dozen other states are experimenting with the municipal financing of solar installations to eliminate that big disincentive to do so: the initial cost. Here's how it works: financed like an infrastructure improvement, solar installations' cost will be covered by a loan from the city secured by property taxes. Any homeowner is eligile, and the obligation to pay the loan attaches to the house and passes on to future buyers. It is paid back with annual property taxes by the homeowner. That big stumbling block, gone. Virginia is one of the states! (Not us, because we don't have any sunshine...)