They used to call the place where I was raised, “The Sticks.” That is what they would call the village of Lyons, New York, and other small towns “down there” in Manhattan, where I have lived for 30 years. For 30 years I have tried to find and maintain a balance between both places, although a few folks in the village did refer to me as the “city slicker” for long while. Language can separate people as much as distance.
We know that there are differences in size among the places we live, and we know that there remains an inferiority complex among the world’s rural communities, small towns and hamlets. Biases prevail, even in places that should know better, like Stockholm, Singapore and Brooklyn. In fact, the World Reference Forum still asks whether “the sticks” are further removed, geographically, than the evidently unreachable and, in the unenlightened mind, irrelevant “Middle of Nowhere.”
Since the dawn of the Intelligent Community movement in 1995, fewer and fewer people use those terms or ask questions like that. These are questions which reflect a time before the “Broadband Economy” presented itself in our screens. Since then the dialogue has been dramatically altered, and with it the language and perceptions of what is possible. As the Great Coral Reef was once referred to by the 18th Century explorer James Cook as ‘an insane labyrinth” (and for good reason, since in 1770 the coral ridge of Tasmania nearly sunk his ship), so it became perceived for what it is 200 year later, when the reef was declared a marine sanctuary by the Australian government. It is among the things which make life possible. It is not so far different than small towns.
It took those in the sticks and the city slickers working together to make it happen in Australia. It led to a social movement that I believe was the first salvo in the movement to protect our seas. It will be seen, someday, as the beginning of the long road ahead to restore the balance of the earth’s ecosystem. It also gave a boost to those smaller communities, where nature was still abundant and in balance.
Similarly, we hope our Rural Imperative will have an effect on the discussion of the importance of places like Pirai, Dakota County, Castelo de Vide and Mitchell. These four places, though small, submitted nomination forms in an attempt to show themselves that, like Taichung and Toronto, they were of the future. They succeeded. Mitchell, South Dakota (USA) likes to tell the story of how it grasped innovation, planned for the future and in the process became Intelligent.
Since we announced our 2015 Theme, we have been concerned that the submissions this year may come from only cities, where urban planning is part of the policy-making landscape. However, that would be contrary to the ICF method and dream, which is to ensure that any place people call “Home” can achieve at a global level and plan for the kind of life and economy that is sustainable.
As you consider whether to submit a nomination for your village, town or county, keep in mind that you too are either a “Revolutionary Community” at some level, or can be. By nominating your community to be evaluated with giants, you are not being David against Goliath. You are indicating your confidence that the place you are building, running or promoting is not only Smart and possibly Intelligent, it is also restoring the balance which we all know is out of whack. The “Middle of Nowhere” is no more – and has not been since 1995. Good luck.