Throughout the West and elsewhere a new economic wave spurred by the internet is rising so quickly that it can overwhelm a local community before the full impacts of the economic wave are even recognized let alone understood.
While an extractive economy still threatens public lands and perhaps even more aggressively than before, what promised at first glance to be an antidote, a “recreational” or “natural amenities” economy, comes freighted, we now see, with its own set of negative impacts.
You can love a place to death. And as Wallace Stegner wrote nearly thirty years ago, “We are in danger of becoming scenery sellers.” And you can oversell scenery as easily as you can oversell oil.
The solution isn’t to scapegoat tourists. The solution is to support a public discussion that reminds us of the wilderness values and local community values that have kept the soul of a place like Big Sur alive and then to articulate those values in creative and proactive new ways that actively deepen the experience of being in a place like Big Sur for both residents and visitors alike.
To that end the Henry Miller Memorial Library will be hosting in connection with other like-minded organizations a writers and speakers series on diverse questions and issues related to this overall theme. Here in Big Sur as elsewhere some of the immediately presenting issues are: workers’ housing, short-term rentals, the commercialization of neighborhoods, traffic congestion along the Highway 1 corridor, helicopters and drones and the intrusion of other electronic devices in the backcountry and in backcountry neighborhoods.
Since so many communities in the West (and elsewhere)—both rural and urban—find themselves tackling this same question about their own identity in the face of this new economic and technological wave, the aim of “Nowhere Is Our Real Home” is to create a forum or “conversation” in which members of different communities can share experiences, insights, and strategies they’re learning from both what has felt like success and from what has felt like failure. We’re planning to audio-record and make available via podcast each speaker/event. There will be an “in—out” rhythm to the series. That is, we’ll have both speakers from “outside” Big Sur and then we’ll create programs of our own from “inside” Big Sur. For example…
On April 3 our first speaker will be David Gessner, the author of All the Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West. Link to event HERE
And then we’ll follow up Gessner’s appearance with an event we’ll create ourselves—“Big Sur: A Literary Landscape”—that will explore the vision of local culture (in relationship to wilderness) that local writers Jaime de Angulo, Robinson Jeffers, and Henry Miller held.
The underlying belief is that a curious and engaged community can still help define its own future.
We hope you will join us and please stay in touch.