I'll try to give you as much info as I can right now-without writing 3 pages! We had a great turnout- 475 people 12 and older. Also 52 kids under 12 for the free childcare. We had refreshments- a mix of stuff a bunch of us baked and also food provided by the cafe and big grocery store. One cool thing to come of this btw is that the grocery store "bakery" normally only "bakes" prepared baked goods- they do nothing "from scratch". But much of their supply has been disrupted-so the manager decided to take a risk(hope he's not fired!) and use stuff such as bananas and carrots and the like along with flour, sugar, eggs, etc- and got the staff to use recipes and start baking real baked goods for sale; banana bread, carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies- like homemade! So that has kept the bakery staff employed and sales have been great- and they donated a lot of this to us for the meeting as well.
So anyway, the whole group of us met in the cafeteria to start. The children were cared for by High School students doing community service hours and supervised by a couple of adults. They used the playing field, and a nursery school room and playground.
We had a great mix of people- all ages too, from all 3 towns. I had gone around to everyone on my road to inform them of the meeting and made sure to stop at all the "second-homes"- which were all filled btw- to invite all of these people to come. If they're going to be here- they had better become part of the community real quick I'd say. The town manager was there, our local reps and senator, the selectboards, etc. We also collected a ton of donations for the Food Shelf-not everyone brought stuff but many did- some a number of items. During the event we also had a bunch of tables set up in the hallway-hosted by a bunch of entities- Food Stamps/WIC/State health Insurance info, job/unemployment, car-pooling, Mental Health, rtc.
We talked first about what had been happening-we needed to clear the air about the serious stuff first-like the fire downtown. It seems that the bank will relocate across the street to a vacant store, the drugstore will move to the space our local food market was in until it closed, the clothing store will not re-open(lack of goods from overseas), the church is being hosted by another church in its building- in short- we've managed to come out pretty whole from this. There has always been a desire for a "town green"- and now there will be one. Instead of trying to rebuild, this area will become a new "green"-the landscape architecture program students at the local college will take on this project as part of their program. So everyone felt pretty good about that. We also discussed how to help the "SUV man's" family- and made some plans to do that as they are in dire straits at present.
We discussed why this is all happening- people had a lot to say about this-a lot of stuff about the Middle East, oil companies trying to get rich, etc. That was the signal for the Peak Oil presentation by Chuck- he did a good job- well-made Power Point. That helped define it better for people I think- it made it clearer that there was no point blaming "them"- that it was mostly a resource issue-and the problem was "us" and our use of and dependence on oil. It was interesting as a middle-aged guy got up and said how unfair it seemed as he had been looking foward to some day being able to retire and fish and golf and travel in a RV like his parents had-and now it would never happen that way. And then a teenager got up and said "well hey, at least you got to do all sorts of stuff already- and here they're telling me the party's over before I've even arrived." Good issues to discuss I think.
We then started brainstorming- that was great. It was also the chance for people to donate any skills, services or goods that they could offer- and we decided that one group would work on how to use these items. We had offers of several cull cows for meat, butchering them from the slaughterhouse, logs for firewood, assistance with weatherization projects, bike donations, help with canning-a whole bunch of stuff.
We then listed all the ideas that people had that they wanted to discuss doing locally- lots there. Some of them were a barter system, work-trade, community currency, car-pooling, bus and train system, bike repair, making the roads safer for biking and walking, canning surpluses such as apples growing on roadsides and in fields, buying groups, a way to work for the town(s) to pay off real estate taxes, helping the elderly, how to explain all of this to children-lots more. We picked the subjects to discuss- were able to combine many into one topic- and then people headed off to rooms with their facilitator.
We all gathered back together in the cafeteria afterward and the facilitator from each group gave a brief synopsis of what had occured and what was planned. We now have working groups on:
-canning-and the schools will allow us to use the cafeterias if the school board agrees- with experienced canners agreeing to teach newbies-
-a firewood group
-a barter group-to put together a barter system
-a bike repair and safety group
-a car-pooling organization group
-a "teen group"-which will likely help the elderly and disabled(Boys and Girls club will assist)
-a food group- to organize and collect/distribute all donations and surpluses
-a group to work on paying property tax with labor-how to do this-in each town
-a mass-transist group- advocacy to organize a system
- a "children" group- to work on how to explain all this to our kids- and help them prosper in a changing world
I feel really good about this. We agreed that all of the sub-groups will meet shortly- and we will reconvene in another month or so to catch up on where we are going with it all. We have set up a web-site- our local ISP will host it- which will have up-to-date info on everything that is happening in the area as well as a space for each group to post what they are doing as well as events they will host(eg canning, bike repair clinic).
It was a good meeting. It feels like we have turned the corner and have something concrete to work on. We once were thriving communities before oil- and we need to learn how to work with a reduced supply. It was apparent that communication and openess were what was needed- if we start to mistrust each other it will not work. There is real power in community. In the end it's probably our biggest resource.