A Future for Lancaster

A Future for Lancaster
I keep talking about building a future for Lancaster. Carl Icahn and the guys of his sort sucked the life out of Anchor-Hocking and left our city pining away. That glass industry had been the throbbing heart of not only Lancaster’s economy, but it’s very culture. But that’s all but gone now; and with plastics replacing glass it won’t ever be coming back. Say good-bye. Anchor-Hocking had been the foundation of Lancaster. It provided living wages for our people and those wages fed all the services that supported those laborers and made us a viable community.

       Lancaster was a solid, thriving, small mid-Western city until Icahn and company. But that’s history. Now we’re struggling, fairly consumed by the opioid epidemic, which is itself the result of our losses of labor and future. So we’ve gotta start from the beginning. How do we build a future for our community, for our grandchildren?

And I’ll also suggest that while just maintaining the local infrastructure is currently consuming most of our energy and resources, it won’t build us a future. Probably won’t even be able to keep things where they are . . . struggling to survive while slowing sinking. No, I think we need to figure out how to keep things from getting worse with one hand while starting to build a new future for us and our grandkids with the other.

I suggested the other day that in building our future we ought to keep our Appalachian heritage in mind. It’s rich, and offers some good foundation stones to build on. But that alone can’t carry us into our future. There are several other factors we need to build in. The first is simply that no one else is going to build it for us. If we wait for some outsider to come in and build a plant that becomes our future, well, that’s the kind of rape that has been happening across Appalachia for two centuries. Don’t go there! Don’t play helpless.

        I think we need to build our future by ourselves for ourselves. Then it’s got a chance of staying here. And we can’t rely on the Feds to build it for us. At the moment they’re paralyzed and can’t do anything for anyone. Besides, the guys who try to spy out the future are starting to tell us that, while in Roosevelt’s day the federal government reached out to help the locals, that trend is reversing, and if it’s gonna happen, it’s gotta happen at the local level. The Fed is not going to do it. We have to figure out how to build it for ourselves by ourselves.

We can do it, but we need to be factoring in several other considerations. The foremost of those is globalization. It’s happening; cry all you want but it isn’t going to stop or go away. Over half the world have an IPhone in their hand and they can see what’s going on and what they don’t yet have. Trump can try to wall our country off from the rest of the globe; and, who knows, he might be able to do it for a short while. But globalization has become the irresistable force that won’t stop pushing us. If we choose not to participate in globalization, the rest of the world will swallow us up and spit out whatever’s left.

       So I’ll suggest first that as we start to build our future, we need to rely on ourselves, but think not just about ourselves and Lancaster, but think globally; what can we make or do that is marketable to the world, not just to other Americans, but to China, to Africa, maybe even to Russia? Sure globalization means some jobs go away. But we need to realize the work hasn’t gone away, it’s just changed shape; instead of trying to bring back the old jobs, we must figure out how to get ourselves trained to do the new jobs that will carry us into our future.

The second consideration we need to build into our future is technology. It’s changing faster than I can keep up. I was ten before I saw my first TV picture. Cars were starting to streamline and jet planes were still a dream. That’s all outmoded stuff today. SmartPhones and the internet are the moment, and I can only wonder what’s next. I’ve not been able to keep up with it, so I have to get my grandkids’ help when I get stuck. They are learning to keep up with it; and that’s good because their future depends on keeping up. Run faster with greater ease. That’s the future we need to build, one that easily keeps up with the developments while doing well.

And there’s still another consideration we need to build into our future. And that’s environmental change. Climate change is just a small part of it. It’s real, as much as we wish it weren’t. We’re not on the coast, so we don’t need to worry about the rising sea levels, but those near the east and west coasts do; and what’s going to be happening there will affect all of us. So we need to be incorporating it into our plans too.

       More important than climate change is our degrading of the environment. We’re polluting water sources with chemicals, and the air with fossil fuels, and the landscape with plastic litter. We need to get smart about how to hand over our grandkids a country that it’s healthy to live in. And that must be an important part of our thinking and planning and building our future. 
Future-build we must. If we don’t, there might not be much future left.
Jack Bowers


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