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Manifesting destiny where the asphalt ends

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
March 19, 2008


It's been little more than five years since Team Bush attacked Iraq with its coalition of the drilling and I can't help wondering if there is an expiration date on the manifest destiny thing. Perhaps I'm still feeling the residual effects of the Green Tara mandala but I also can't help wondering how you would know when you have manifested enough destiny. What is the shelf life on American expansionism?

Introduced into cultural consciousness in 1845 by journalist John L. O'Sullivan, manifest destiny became the rallying cry for US expansionism and the surge west. First used to justify the annexation of Texas, it was also employed to attribute divine providence to the land grab frenzy of the mid 19th century.

Those days are over, the United States has long ago spread from sea to shining sea, and Southern California strains at the seams of sustainability. Where do we go from here? And no, this isn't about Iraq, although it is connected. Rushing headlong into a uncertain future in support of a failed paradigm has always been a key aspect of the American experience. Baghdad's Green Zone is just a modern day Alamo.

Now, just because we are crowded up against the coast of North America doesn't mean everything is settled. Far from it. It's still the wild west. On the cusp of progress and peril we drive ourselves to distraction seemingly trying to out run an inherited calamity. And yet still the people come hoping to strike it rich in the golden state before the water runs out. Some things never change.

Sitting on Interstate 5 it's hard to imagine this is the destiny early pioneers where hoping to manifest once they settled into their new lives.

I think it is time to find a new frontier to explore. And where many believe "up" is the new frontier, I am of the opinion the true frontier is environmental balance and restraint. Twenty-first century pioneers are those moving off grid, becoming energy independent, water wise and low impact in the ways they go about the business of living.

This new frontier actually takes into account the mistakes of 19th and 20th century perpetrated in pursuit of economic growth and greed. Living in harmony with the environment will replace living at odds with nature. The new frontier is the challenge of redesigning our communities to do more with less smarter and better.

It's a good thing Californians are used to living on the edge. Sustainable cities of the 21st century will be those rapidly transitioning to a less resource intensive ethic with cutting edge of green technologies. Sustainable cities will be prepared to weather the elements and changing economic conditions in the new frontier. Sustainable cities will harness renewable energy sources out of necessity while promoting conservation, preservation and restoration.

Welcome to the new frontier. It's time to circle the wagons.

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