I'm flying over Lake Michigan on my way to Sacramento, California for the ASPO-USA Peak Oil Conference. There will be many people there who I'm eager to ask questions; questions about the future of Michigan.
Michigan is in a very difficult position with the oil crisis and a monetary crisis delivering a one-two hit. Michigan's economy is dependant on three core industries: automobiles, agriculture, and tourism.
As the sun rises to the east over Michigan, and we fly into Wisconsin, over Green Bay, I'm wondering how… How will Michigan survive? How will the USA survive? How will the World survive this crisis?
The boundary between land and lake is distinct: a smoothly winding line separating infinite glassy smoothness from an apparently equal flatness of farm fields, straight lined roads, and glowing night lights.
Michigan has many, many advantages that can help it in the future.
First, and most evident from 34,000 feet are the natural assets. Surrounded by the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, Michigan is perfectly positioned with a temperate climate, well balanced rainfall, and recreational splendor. The string of the Great Lakes shoreline, whose beaches I return to year after year, are of the most beautiful and pristine in the world. Beyond the shore, Michigan boasts hundreds, thousands, of lakes, ponds, and rivers. Michigan is also the home to great living assets, particularly the expansive forests of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
Second, Michigan is home to ten million people, a people who have great skills, knowledge, and fortitude. Michigan's industry is of the most advanced in the world, with people highly trained in math, science and technology. Michigan's education establishment: public schools, colleges and universities, and public media keep Michigan in the know, and ready to face the challenges of tomorrow. Greater still, the people of Michigan believe that helping each other and protecting the environment and one and the same goal. Not only do they love Michigan and the out of doors, but they want to protect it for their children and for future generations.
My family first came to Michigan in the mid-1800's, some of the first settlers. On my mother's side, they moved from southeast Michigan to northwest Michigan, making a living in the booming logging industry. On my father's side, immigrants from Western Europe sought a new life, and the American dream in northwest Michigan. Now, seven generations later, I am doing what I can to help Michigan reclaim its greatness by tackling the crisis head on, and finding solutions to create jobs, happiness, and future prosperity. I do this not for me so much as for my son, my family, and for all that follow.
Michigan is at a critical point. With a crushing 8.9% unemployment rate, a staggering core automotive industry, and an epidemic of home foreclosures, Michigan is on the very edge of being the first state to not just enter a recession, but to enter a full fledged depression. Already, within the great cities of Detroit and Flint, the people cry out for help from this economic crisis. What does their future hold? What is future Michigan?
As we fly over Wisconsin, with the sun rising behind the plane, and the misty haze of the day clearly fast, I try to focus myself on the task at hand: Taking full advantage of the next three days in Sacramento to find the answers, and to find ways to help the people of Michigan to create a new vision for Michigan's future.
I have questions for the experts at the conference:
What should Michigan be doing to prepare for peak oil?
What should Michigan be doing to protect itself from the monetary crisis?
What should be done by Michigan's automotive industry? Tourism industry? Agriculture industry?
What should be the vision for Michigan's future?
The jet plane, now ablaze in the orange of the rising sun, begins its decent from on high to the Minneapolis stop-over. I know where this jet plane is headed, but I wonder, where is Michigan headed? Where is our global culture headed?
The future is in our hands. It is up to us now, to make the changes that will dominate our own lives and those of our children. We are the ones that are here, now, at the edge of this great turning. It is time for us to stand up and take our place in this great story of humanity, to be the voice for people and planet, and to create the new, enduring culture of tomorrow, today.
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.