Data is cool, but life is better.
We collect a lot of data about energy consumption: per-capita daily water usage, kilowatt load, percent of waste that is recycled. These are some of the thousands of data points that we track to see how the green movement is doing. Tracking this data is important, but among the trees of data, it is easy to lose the forest of life. And the forest of life is what makes a community livable.
This is what makes Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Greenwise Sacramento movement so important to us in Sacramento. As I interviewed Johnson and his five Greenwise team leaders this week (see “Super Green,” SN&R Feature Story), I was struck not only by their obvious intelligence, knowledge and commitment, but also by the joy they experienced working on this project. It was the simple joy of doing something that matters, the sense of empowerment that comes from doing something bigger than yourself.
Before our interview began, Greenwise team leader and Sacramento Area Council of Governments executive director Mike McKeever told me about his experience of going to the new Oak Park Saturday farmers’ market. McKeever had been worried that a farmers’ market in one of Sacramento’s poorest neighborhoods might not survive. He rode his bike to the market. He went into the Old Soul Co. coffeehouse, and the place was packed. He then walked out to the market, where he had wonderful encounters with the farmers who were happy to talk to him about their farms and produce. McKeever ran into 10 people he knew. And then, just as he was leaving, he met the mother of the event organizer, who proudly told him how her daughter had put together this wonderful event. McKeever was so happy that people came, and that Oak Park now has its own amazing farmers’ market.
The data will reflect that McKeever bought some locally grown produce. But, as his story shows, life is more complicated and beautiful than that.
On the cover of this week’s paper, we illustrate the Greenwise team members and Mayor Johnson as superheroes. As you may know from the comics, superheroes’ powers are always stronger when they work together. And this Greenwise team, working together with the people coming to the monthly Greenwise meetings, working in concert with others in the community, combined, has mega-superpowers.
The organizer of the Oak Park farmers’ market has superpower. The farmers who brought the food, the musicians who played the music and the people who attended, in combination, have superpowers. They turned a boring chore of buying food in a sterile, corporate supermarket into a life-enriching joy in a community market. That is powerful. And it is super. While data may paint a picture, life is three-dimensional.