Survival Has Been the Main Focus For Last Few Months

By Ken Wells

There is actually little to report from the State House, because it has remained closed to legislators since March. Members of the House nevertheless resumed their legislative roles at the University of New Hampshire Whittemore hockey arena on two dates in June. The House is now in recess until “Veto Override Day” in September, after the September 8 primary elections.

So what follows is a musing about our shared, but socially distant, experience during the past months, and our prospects for the distant future.

For the past several months, who hasn’t been preoccupied with their own survival?

Survival of COVID19… Survival of violence sparked by social injustice… Survival of joblessness and the economic upheaval that has closed businesses across our state… Survival of the spreading environmental damage all around our planet, which has heaped pandemics, wildfires, street protests, extinctions, invasive species, droughts, freak storms, and so forth onto our pile of problems. None of this has been fun.

To emerge from this woeful cycle, we must address two underlying factors that have led us to our current difficult moment in American history. One is global environmental degradation. It’s caused largely by unsustainable economic extractive processes, such as our overreliance on fossil fuel and worldwide destruction of forests. 


As just one example, the editors of Scientific American say that recent zoönotic diseases (ones that have jumped from wild animals to humans) include COVID-19, SARS, ebola, and HIV, as wild animal habitats have been squeezed by human encroachment.  The second factor is a hypocritical system that extracts, even steals, economic value from indigenous peoples, people of color, and yes, even from “regular white folks” like me, while bestowing extra privilege, power and wealth on a few who seem beyond the reach of the law. 


Just one familiar example is the unconstitutional New Hampshire system of underfunding our schools and forcing towns to increase property taxes, at the same time the state institutes corporate tax cuts. Our government plays a central role in promoting both of these bad practices, but as voters in a democracy, we have the power to insist upon change, if we choose to exercise it.

Imagination creates hope in hard times.

For a moment, let’s set the pressing worry about our immediate personal survival aside. Let’s share an optimistic, pragmatic, and, as some may later say, a heroic view that we will get through this together. If we just “keep calm and carry on” before too long we will be looking forward to a long and bright future.

What do you hope that future will look like? Let’s have some fun and imagine all the good 30 years, or even 50 years of positive change could bring…close your eyes, make a wish for 50 years in the future… No, seriously, stop reading and do it…Now, what did you wish for?

Did your vision of the future include flying cars like George Jetson’s? Or transporter beams as portrayed on the Starship Enterprise? Or maybe you imagine a future world without cancer. Or a world where everyone who needs medicine, or who wants an education, is able to get it. Or maybe your wish is very personal, like a new hiking trail to a beautiful New Hampshire spot, built to memorialize a loved one. Now, instead of calling it your “wish”, let’s call it your “goal” and let’s get to work together to make it become reality!

If we all do that together, imagine how great life in New Hampshire could be in 50 years!

Better than we found it.

Good things generally never result from accidents, suddenly emerging out of chaos, but instead require careful planning. Relying on luck alone has never been a reliable life-strategy. Wonderful events and brilliant inventions hardly ever happen all by themselves. Somebody has always stepped up to invest a lot of thought and effort into devising a future that solves the problems of the day and brightens people’s lives. 


Most often, that “somebody” wasn’t working alone, but working collectively with like-minded folks. That’s what we need now — to make an investment of imagination and effort for our collective future. Here’s a great thing: imagination and effort don’t need to cost a lot of money. They do require strong will, which I know we have plenty of in New Hampshire!

Although I know I won’t be around to experience that wonderful future New Hampshire 50 years from now, I strongly believe that making a big investment of effort and imagination into our children’s and their neighbor’s children’s future is not merely “worth it,” it is an almost sacred obligation. It’s no different than my brother and me learning as kids from my Dad, the old trail-riding Eagle Scout, that we would always leave our campsite or trail “better than we found it” for those who would travel that way after we were gone.

We have a long, long way to go to leave our current world “better than we found it.” Unfortunately, there are some among us who loudly champion a selfish, uncooperative point of view, but I hope for all our sakes that we find reconciliation soon. Be kind to them and offer them a path to discovering their own constructive visions of the future. We are not in this for ourselves, all of us are in this together.

Now is when the future begins

The vast knowledge and powerful science available to us today gives us the ability to predict, choose, and plan our own future to an extent that was impossible at any other time in history — if we have the wisdom to do it. Recently however, we have been coming up short on wisdom and political will to follow through and implement our best know-how. Science denialism and corrupt corporate shills should never be tolerated among our policymakers. We voters must demand better.

Technology and economics are not obstacles to implementing many of our largest “wish-goals” for the future. Many futuristic technologies (such as competitively-priced renewable energy) already exist. 


As a case in point, examine the recent report on the energy makeover for the Andover Town Offices, completed about two years ago. Using commercially available and warrantied technology, the town insulated, upgraded HVAC to mini-split heat pumps, and installed solar panels. The health and comfort of those who use the building has been improved, and mold has been abated. Annual Town expenses have been reduced and will save the town’s taxpayers something like $3,300 per year over the old fuel-burning system, for the decades-long lifespan of the new systems. 


Andover will recover this renewable investment in 12 years compared to previous fuel costs, without even considering that the entire existing system was ripe for replacement at considerable expense. Yes, new 21st century technologies are available and very competitive with 20th-century technology.

At the top of this essay, dId anyone wish that in 50 years, they would be 17 years old? My guess, probably not. But why not? Don’t you think it would be great to be 17 again?  Perhaps not great to be 17 in the future we are chaotically creating for the 17-year-olds of 2070, 50 years from now. I hope folks being born into that time don’t point to us as villains when they contemplate the future we bequeath them.

Let’s imagine a better world for them, and then work together to make it so!