God, how i love how a brilliant storm will morph the air from stifling, suffocating heat to fresh rip-your-heart-out cold torrents in a matter of moments. Menacing mile high black clouds moved like a train and lightning flashes of fury and fierce wind tore roofs and scaffolding right off the top of buildings and ripped trees from their roots along Lakeshore Drive, in Chicago. See the crane on the top of the building to the right? The scaffold is on the top right corner and was still intact in this photo but, in a matter or seconds, huge pieces of it were hurtling through the air to come crashing down on some poor person running to get out from under the sudden downpour. We were actually just meeting Wendy Abrams, the creator of the concept of the coolglobes exhibit, outside of the Field Museum next to the Reduce Reuse Recycle globe when the sky went from windy with scary clouds to falling down around us. Everybody seemed mesmerized by the sky and the falling debris, until the wind hit us like a wall and we scrambled up the Field steps for safety. Nature, when she doesn’t kid, is a force not to be trifled with.
Earlier in the day, we met with Phil Baum who talked with us about a really exciting prospect called Green Exchange. Due in 2008, Green Exchange will be the nation’s first green marketplace for retailers of consumer goods by a commercial developer. Finally! Real-estate with a real estate! It seems that several communities have intended to do the same thing – basically make a sort of Mall whose tenants are all on the same environmentally conscious page (ie: Global Citizen Center in San Francisco which is basically on hold for funding) – but, for whatever reason, none of them have yet come to fruition. Until now.
One of their tenants-to-be, Rich Cohen of Distant Village Packaging, welcomes the opportunity to be under the same roof with like-minded businesses and patiently looks forward to the projected grand opening in 2008. Rich’s eco business is interesting in that its purpose seems to run counter to one of the messages that has resounded on our trip: Buy local. But, to Rich, the benefits of providing a fair wage to craftspeople who might not otherwise be able to support themselves or their families (and supporting these people to create sustainably) far outweighs the cost of shipping finished products overseas to reach American consumers. Maybe if America wants developing countries to see the good in “going green,” supporting green commerce and green trade is a good way to provide evidence that we are all in this together. We are looking at what Americans are doing to live sustainably. Buying local is a beautiful thing. But America does a ton of trade with other countries for goods that are NOT sustainably created (ie: most coffee), where labor practices are NOT fair (ie: clothes, cotton from India), where much of what is made is designed to be “disposable,” or for one-time use, and where we aren’t even sure what is going into the products bc the country doesn’t have the same regulations as we do regarding materials (ie: lead in toys from China). Perhaps supporting craftspeople in distant villages is the one way that we have as a country to help ensure that developing countries DON’T follow in our industrially wasteful footsteps. Our carbon footprint is a giant one. Giving some littler guys a hand to step over it seems like the least we can do. Just a thought.