As I mentioned when I came back from the energy conference in October, I was going to give a talk in November called "Going Local: Building a Self-Reliant Richmond, Indiana". I had agreed to speak earlier in the year and didn't really know what I was going to talk about beyond the expectation that it would fit into the "sustainability" theme of the series of talks in which I was participating and have some focus on peak oil and related topics.
It turned into one of my most intense speaking experiences to date.
I've given presentations and led discussions about a lot of different stuff, but they usually trend toward technology topics with which I'm very comfortable and have lots of experience talking about. They also tend to be specific enough that I don't have to demonstrate a greater understanding of the universe or tie a whole bunch of big themes together. But in "Going Local," it was about taking a hard look at how we (humans) got into the mess we're in (energy crisis, climate change, economic collapse, widespread war and injustice) and making some very specific recommendations about what to do about it on the local level. Personal suggestions. Things that might offend, or at least cause discomfort. Things I've had a hard time saying out loud before.
It was also a kind of culminating presentation for me. The place where community-building, good communication and discussion, concerns about the energy and climate crises, and creating a vision for the future of Richmond meet is a nexus where I've been spending more and more of my own personal energy lately. There's minimal personal risk in talking about optimizing a website for Google's search engine, but when you're talking about the sustainability of our lives in the place we call home, it somehow feels more edgy, vulnerable, scary.
Despite my anxiety, I think it turned out quite well. What's more, I think it started some good conversations, some of which are still going on. I was grateful that the talk was not only attended by the somewhat academic population at whom it was originally targetted, but also local economic development officials, business owners, sustainability educators, friends, and at least one member of the media. Thanks to everyone who came and who shared your feedback.
For those who were there, I've posted the "menu" of suggested action items for futher comment and expansion, over at ProgressiveWayneCounty.org. And if you weren't there, the suggested items may make more sense when you hear the rest of the spiel - I'm available to give the talk to your group or organization if you want. I'm ready to face the discomfort again, knowing how important having these conversations might be, trusting that I still have much to learn, and hoping that it will get easier each time.