I just read this from CNBC...“We don’t need all the mall space we have just for shopping. American malls should be converted into multi-service mini villages,” says retail expert Amanda Nicholson. She says the rules surrounding how malls are run need to change for the malls to survive.
Shopping has changed for good, and for the good, I trust. So, I was rethinking those large commercial-soon-to-be-empty/uneconomic-spaces. Reader beware, I do not live in a large city; I live in a small Alaskan village and relish the bluebird blue sky in a gorgeous, highly unequal Colorado ski town. Forgive me if this is simply repurposing folly, along with this would be having a heavy heart if we lost all of these without learning the lessons.
Sometimes seeking a solution becomes easier when we Xpand that single problem to include solving many at the same time-like coronavirus pandemic and climate crisis and nuclear waste/weapons. This evening breeze calls for a few beautiful questions to be considered.
How might me live more equally, more compassionately, more justly so all enjoy happier lives? Seeing homeless and craziness and forgotten elders on the streets of American cities does not have to be "just the way it is." There is nothing just or caring or loving or special about the way these residents are treated. Somewhere in our lives we have failed each other. How might we rewind and rewire our togetherness now? We belong to each other. Along with this would be fairly valuing the caring professions: teachers, healthcare workers, elder/child care-ers, mental health supporters.
Might we convert empty shopping malls into community centers? Might malls survive if they’re converted into mixed-use centers-not luxury spaces, but mini villages for the greatest good? And the ones who have the least goods right now are the homeless, the hungry, the unemployed, recently released from jails, mentally unbalanced, charities, and elders needing care. Along with this would be medicare for all children to age 26 and elders beginning at age 55 for now.
Could we ease the burden on religious organizations constantly raising funds to do many of these good works in our neighborhoods with these structural changes? Lighten their loads, spread self-care and responsibility? Along with this would be universal basic income and community banks.
Might youth derive joy, experience, purpose by redesigning these commercial places into creative play spaces from these abandoned or worth-far-less malls with cool creative hangouts for life-long learners? With AI, VR, AR, coding, music, art, no cost, and purposeful. We have thousands of community problems to solve. Let's engage the genius and idealism of youth partnered with the life experience of the lucky and long-lived to imagine a connected, interdependent, economological (meaning an ecology balanced with a life-affirming economy) planet. How bad could it be? Look at the injustice we have all succumbed to? Can we be bold and right wrongs? How might we get kids outside a whole lot more? Facts are infinitely available now for free on the internet and cell phones. How might we guide kids to become critical thinkers, creative designers, and inventive innovators? Could flipped-script school where teachers are guides for students who design their own curriculum based on what interests them, which problems in the real world they might solve, valuing their inner discovery free them of anxiety producing subjective-other-evaluating-grades? Along with this would be completely free education through college lighten the financial demands on our young adults as they build their fresh lives.
And those massive parking lots? How about community solar farms and urban gardens producing real food in those food deserts, stuffed shelves of no living fruit or veggie, just processed diabetes-causing, plastic-covered packages? Could composting the waste be the new natural process? What parts of nature's decomposers might we learn from? Could garden clubs be all the rage for earth keepers of all ages? Hey, Ron Finley, are you listening? Could community charging stations generate sufficient revenue for the upkeep of these chill new spots? Along with this would be the rapid installation of residential charging stations, renewable energies with full-cycle recycling, full access to the internet, and all the urgent fixes serving justices of all sorts (except the Supreme one) of the Green New Deal.
Trees, please. Cooldown these urban hot spots with real green, water-cycling, soil-regenerating, mycelium-connecting, natural gardens of native plants, inviting to harmless critters. Along with this would be mining local landfills for precious metals from discarded electronics and managing methane leaks from stranded and decommissioned fossil fuel wells, pipelines, compressor stations, and LNG deepwater ports and not allowing life giving water to be privatized?
Those huge exterior walls of those forgotten malls might become outdoor theaters to drive-in, ride up, walk to, stroll through. Would they continuously display the recorded works of local productions and performers young and old? While at it lets broadcast them over the internet. So what's the appeal during distanced-gathering? The gorgeous food potlucked by the community or crafted by new chefs could attract a slower, gentler, more tender socializing in our neighborhoods. Those homeless, might they be sous chefs to have meaningful ways of helping in the well-equipped, community commercial kitchen? Could we together have healthy bodies while all our neighbors are fed real homegrown and home cooked food? Along with this would be nutrition as a trend and well-funded arts celebrated and and music-making-perfectly-pitched-multi-use-uber-comfy-realms to relish the language of joy and pain and suffering and loving.
Let's buy them, those unattractive yesterday's retailer spaces! Let's make rent a thing of the 20th Century. It's the 21st Century. Let's make some big moves.Might these malls will go under with no shoppers and be worthless. How might we underwrite their conversions? We need far less stuff and far more "withness" from all our relations. The Arctic permafrost is already melting and releasing who-knows-what-treacherous-bacteria-or-viruses we'll need to adapt to? Oh, yes, these silent killers will come again. Along with this would be covered rent during pandemics.
Are strip malls different than destination regional malls? Could we engage in rotating decisions for all of our communities, the natural and the developed? Not corporate execs, not lobbyists, not marketers for campaigns, not ad agencies, not pollers, not so many damaging and negative influences in our democracy and for those brave enough to stand as our leaders. The time has come for us to lead ourselves into a finer future. We would own our energy, innovation, and ideas. And invest them wisely in trying new things, brighter, shinier, sweeter with a broader vision of serving the greatest good for the greatest number for the greatest time. Along with this would be randomly elected leaders and voting at age 16.
While we are at it...dare I ask for returning wild animals to the wild? Would we want to be locked up in cages or confined to our homes any longer than we already are? Coronavirus and earlier pandemics were caused by poaching, eating, and storing in mass wild animals in wet markets. These zoonotic events will continue to threaten homo sapiens existence until we have a culture shift where the risk far outweighs the reward and globally is no longer condoned. All our relations include plants, animals-wild and domestic. The list of how many parts of nature are in rapid decline is as long as our plasticized oceans are planet covering. Might we join the survival revolution by seriously rewilding Earth, setting aside wilderness for the wildest among us? Along with this would be #NatureNeedsHalf.
If we right our relations with the least-cared for among us, perhaps we will learn what it might take to live in respect for our natural home as well. City folk breathe clean air now during the pandemic. City folk see blue skies for the first time in decades. City folk in China wear masks now to protect from the virus rather than the toxic air. Clean water still does not run free in many rural parts of our country. Might rural and urban become friends to listen and hear and understand each other in a world of enoughness? Along with this would be small scale farmers teaching urban dwellers how to grow their own food.would
Travel, too, must be reengineered. We conservationists flying around the world talking story about decarbonizing Earth while our own emissions are equivalent to an entire African village for a year will not flatten the curve in time. How can we call for change when we are emitting these mountains of carbon ourselves? We can not. Is the combustible engine the horse of the 1800's approaching the 20th century? Now are we prepared for the tip in this most historic year: 2020? Along with this would be autonomous, electrified vehicles of membership riders so we only need 1/6th the number and batteries derived from nonpolluting sources of lithium-perhaps geothermal waste or hydrogen?
Will we have 20-20 vision? Or just being nearsighted and privileged, glazing over quarterly earnings in the decadal crashing stock markets. Will we have the courage, competence, and compassion for farsighted, inclusive, interdependent action now? Or the you-owe-me-to-store-me-oil-futures-at-negative-$38-a-barrel? Will we stand up, speak out, shout for all our relations in the broadest community we can? What do we value? The numbers in a bank account or all parts of who we are in the losing numbers of animals in the last 40 years-40%? The numbers of votes we get because of a pleasing personality or all parts of who we are in the number of transformative ideas for political justice? The numbers of connections we have on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter or the singular number of our own inner connection of loving all parts of who we are with our friends and families? Will we “have what we have” be enough to redream life with Earth-all parts of Earth-the scarce into abundant, the clearly-seen-dark into light, the frightened into secure, the numb into the fully felt, and the unloved into adored? Along with this would be women and girls rising.
Treating Earth like an endless store of natural resources leaves all life in Earth's systems underappreciated, extracted, overused, and sick. Are we ourselves unhealthy now? Are many of us dying now? Are our systems sufficient for all now? Are we ready to evolve to a higher consciousness now? There is only us. Along with this would be revering the religious and spiritual natures of the other, recognizing that there are no others.
From healing to understanding how to live in balance in nature, can we look beyond what we think we already know? Can we value an invisible knowing beyond and older than science? Might we learn to have enough, taking just what is needed? Can we regenerate our healthy bodies after honoring what has been taken to support life, energy, sunshine, photosynthesis in all forms from the air and land and sea thriving. Along with this would be honoring indigenous wisdom.
If this pandemic pause is causing a grander compassion, then it is from asking more beautiful questions. Will we give profound and abundant care to our communities? Is our community grander than we have before imagined it might be? We are in this together. We belong to each other. We are enough to figure this out. Who, if not us? Along with this would be the rising of shemanity skipping beside humanity, living low to the ground, embracing technology, loving living in Earth and birthing new rights along a joyful Xpansion.
We’ll need teams, indeed legions working everyday to fix our broken living systems with Earth. Our house may be on fire. We can emerge to meet this emergency. Time is our friend. Many are the things we do not want in our current reality. How will we shrink the gap between what is and along with this would be? Please add your dream of an improved post-pandemic world.
Along with that would be...less stuff and more life-respecting relations.