Local heroine Marsha Havens shared a photograph of artist Bob Holloway’s hillside painting of Eureka Springs last week, and mused, “I’ve been thinking about Eureka Springs as a self-sustaining community. Any thoughts on this?”
My immediate thought is to define what “self-sustaining” means. The US Department of Defense defines sustainability in terms of food security: if all methods of getting into a town or city are blocked – no planes, trains, or automobiles – how long will the food supply last? Fifty years ago, the city of Kansas City would have lasted about 130 days before the last slice of bread and the last juju bean was gone. Today, KC’s residents can eat for 70 days. The state of Iowa, which is fundamentally one big farm, imports 85% of its food; its food security score is 90 days.
There are other measures of what self-sustaining means, of course, with drinkable water and breathable air high on the list. But, along with sufficient food supplies, these are things we take for granted. Our preoccupations are instead on pink hotels, boutiques, and swinging hotspots seen through the windows of a Big Yellow Taxi.
Mr. Holloway’s charming picture doesn’t show any pink hotels, swinging hotspots, or the visiting swarms of Cases of Arrested Development who endlessly lumber up Spring Street astride heavily financed noise machines, greying cockscombs born to be wild. These absent CADs – pardon me, valued customers – are imported in real life, as is most of our food and, if included in Holloway’s picture-perfect town, would sustain everything except its magic, personality, nature, and Self.
The inherent paradox of Self is that it must give up things to be sustainable. That’s difficult. We spend our finite time protesting against politicians rather than educating and registering new voters. We waffle between creating a good place to make a living, and creating a good place to live. And who has time to plant and sustain a garden? Most of us, frankly, would rather get beat up rather than hoe a row of beets. It’s easier to import Mexican remolachas.
Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?