[Note: the steps recommended for Michigan can be applied to most states in the USA – that is, the article applies to any state with sun, wind, or moving water - editor]
The U.S. auto industry is on the chopping block. Michigan employs 240,000 jobs in auto assembly, parts and sales. In addition, another one million plus people in Michigan would be at risk for losing their jobs if the big three were to fail. With the loss of these jobs, every Michigan business and government will be severely impacted. Imagine the fall in state tax revenue, the increase in foreclosures, and the strain on the families. Combining the potential automotive failure with the overall continued failure of the global economy results in Michigan's very life being on the line.
What can Michigan do to save itself from catastrophe?
First, there needs to be a coordinated education campaign to inform all the people in Michigan about what is at hand, putting it in real, down-to-earth terms. We are looking at massive unemployment, massive layoffs, and a massive failure of innumerable businesses and governments throughout the state, with no good prospects of recovery. Once the big three are gone, they could easily be gone for good. This awareness and education campaign needs to involve all of the leaders in Michigan, from government, business, industry, education, nonprofits, and the media.
Second, a plan needs to be unveiled which articulates a clear vision for the future of Michigan. This vision should protect Michigan's economy from ebbs and flows in the global economy. This vision should inspire creativity and enthusiasm.
Michigan will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for its people by providing for 100% of its own energy needs.
Currently, Michigan pays on the order of $26,000,000,000.00 per year just to bring fuels into the state. This is pure insanity. Not only does it cause an unbelievably huge cash drain on us, but it subjects us to rapid and extreme gyrations in the prices of fuels, and sets us up for a crisis in the case of any major disruptions in fuel delivery. Luckily, an extremely straight forward solution exists to this problem.
Michigan boasts outstanding wind, solar, and water resources for the generation of free renewable energy. At the same time, the waste of energy in Michigan is overwhelming. By building a renewable energy infrastructure within Michigan, and rapidly conserving and curtailing energy consumption, the $26 billion cash drain can be rapidly reduced, returning that money to Michigan's economy, and creating thousands upon thousands of jobs.
All of these jobs in building the renewable energy infrastructure would be created by doing all of the work ourselves, and by importing the minimum amount of raw materials necessary. All production, manufacturing, installation, operations, maintenance, etc. would be done in Michigan, by Michiganders. The initiative would include immediate measures to reduce energy consumption by all individuals in all areas of their lives, massive building efforts to super-insulate all homes and businesses, and aggressive transition from automotive manufacture to renewable energy manufacture.
At the same time Michigan's agriculture and food system would be transformed. Michigan produces an abundance of food, in excess of what is needed to feed all Michiganders. Unfortunately, a very small fraction of food eaten in Michigan was grown, processed, packaged, and sold in Michigan. This places Michigan in the untenable position of being without true food security.
Michigan boasts thousands of food growers. Those growers can be planting and growing exactly the same mix of foods as Michigan needs for delicious meals and a healthy, long lives. By buying Michigan grown and processed foods, all of that money stays in Michigan's economy, creating more and more jobs, right here, in Michigan.
In order to create thousands of jobs, provide for the security of all the people of Michigan, and prepare for the challenges and uncertainties of tomorrow, we must be visionary, and must move rapidly and deliberately towards the new Michigan of the future.
After sharing a positive vision for the future of Michigan, it will be time to agree on the ways and means to move forward. A number of ideas deserve immediate, focused attention.
One is the creation of a feed-in tariff program, so that all people can install renewable energy systems, use their capital to generate energy, and receive a guaranteed payment for energy they produce.
Another is the creation of a public bank owned by the State of Michigan into which all of the Michigan's revenues are deposited, and from which massive loans are made to provide the capital for state wide job training and creation.
Additional innovative ideas should be seriously examined to clear the path to ultimate success for Michigan.
We have what we need to succeed.
We have ten million people with the will, and the know how, to get things done right.
We have the history of turning things quickly around, like we did during our World War II mobilization.
We have the manufacturing base, the universities, the land, the water, and the burning desire to change the course and determine our own destiny.
It is time, now, for us to do what is right, to do what is fair, and together, to create, for ourselves and our children, the Michigan of the future... today.
Comment by: auntiegrav (auntiegrav) (Dec-25-2008)
Thanks, Aaron. Another piece of good work, like the conference was. When I was at Michigan State in 1977 for engineering camp, one of the professors showed the comparison between GM and Michigan Agriculture. As a former Michigan dairy farmer, I know how much effort went into 'modernization' of farms and the encouragement by government to increase sizes and concentrate operations. A big step could also be to legalize the sale of raw milk by farms with less than 10 cows, or something like that which encourages local sales and encourages the replacement of petro-farming with manual farming and grazing again. The upper midwest is about as perfect for grazing animals as it gets, yet Michigan (and other states') farmers are given loans and grants to increase in size and use more energy, not less. I'm trying to be a profitable vegetable farmer, but the money available for large dairy operations is very tempting, if only to 'get mine' from the government, even if I would end up defaulting on the money because of the intense competition for the bottom of the wage barrel.
Aaron Wissner is a teacher, educator, organizer and guest speaker. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with emphasis on mathematics, science, and education. Mr. Wissner has taught and consulted for sixteen years in public school, in areas ranging from mathematics, science, computers, to leadership and television news production. He is the founder and organizer of the grassroots Local Future Network, a non-profit educational outreach organization dedicated to saving Earth through culture change.