What does it mean to live someplace?
Many of us move repeatedly during our lifetimes. We often think of ourselves as from two places: where we were born, as well as where we currently live.
The concept of being from a place varies from society to society. It is customary for some people, when introducing themselves, to include the place they are from as a primary component of who they are in the world.
I was born and raised in the northwestern corner of Colorado, in the intermountain West, between the Colorado Plateau and the Green River Basin. For the last 18 years, the San Juan Basin has been part of how I have defined my home. These concepts have always been central to my understanding of myself.
In a world where I type this on a computer made in a variety of places that I am not aware of, where many who read this do so on the Internet and may have never been to the San Juan Basin, it is not necessarily clear why there is any importance to having a sense of belonging to a place.
Basing decisions on living locally can be an important part of reducing our hidden impacts to the human and nonhuman world. Locavore is a term used for trying to source your food locally, which not only reduces the transportation costs of your food, but supports local food producers. The Local First movement in the Durango area is a way for people to support local businesses, keeping your dollars circulating in the community, helping to provide jobs to your friends and neighbors.
La Plata Electric Association is exploring not only providing green energy, but locally sourced energy, and even allowing a feed-in tariff which would go a long way toward supporting local energy entrepreneurs and home-style energy production. Clearly, many folks in our community are aware of the importance of these issues.
The San Juan Basin, though, includes parts of four states, the lands of four Native American tribes, is incredibly diverse ecologically and is rarely discussed as a distinct place. Long known as a national energy sacrifice area, it has exported and continues to export huge amounts of both electricity and natural gas, as well as some oil. It includes areas such as Mesa Verde and the Weminuche Wilderness, which are internationally known tourist destinations. And there are areas such as Canyon Largo, whose beauties are known to few.
Having a regional concept of my place helps me in my attempts to shop, eat and act responsibly. It allows me to lessen the theoretical aspects of my political actions by helping define which calls for action I respond to and what issues I follow most closely. It also allows me to wrestle with the needs of my neighbors for meaningful work and the different ways they recreate, use the landscape or define good. It is broad enough to include places where not many people look like me or necessarily agree with me.
Having these differences close enough to be clearly visible helps keep me humble. A San Juan Basin view of home both expands my understanding of my place in the world and helps keep me in my place by its human and nonhuman diversity.
firstname.lastname@example.org Dan Randolph is interim director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.