The Indiana County Center for Community Growth has organized events that aim to stimulate activism, discussion, and progressive ideals, especially based on the rising tide of the some political successes from our most recent elections. In order to maintain this momentum, steering-committee members have organized a monthly documentary film series. Goals for this endeavor include stimulating discussion and action in addition to supporting local businesses such as the Indiana Theater and other local establishments. Organizers hope to establish ties with these businesses and other locales to stimulate environments where the culture of progressivism can work towards a New Economy based on local values, but global thinking.
On Friday, February 22, the Indiana County Center for Community Growth, a grass-roots progressive organization, launched its film series with The Economics of Happiness (2011) at the Indiana Theater. The event was co-sponsored by The Thomas Merton Center of Pittsburgh.
The film, written and directed by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick and John Page, discusses how globalization by transnational corporations have wreaked havoc on much of the world’s economies through the use of deregulation and mass trade. In her film, Helena Norberg-Hodge calls for the creation of localized economies as a solution to globalization, suggesting that we create a system in which goods and services are produced to fulfill real human needs, rather than based on ideas of consumption and growth, in order to generate stronger, more self-sufficient communities around the world.
Norberg-Hodge believes that the success of local, sustainable economies can be measured by the Genuine Progress Index (GPI) which accounts for “human, community, and social wealth.” By means of the GPI, local communities have the opportunity to focus on their personal wealth and happiness as measured in terms of prosperity and well-being.
Organizers for the Center for Community Growth chose to show this film in order to initiate a community-wide discussion about organizing to improve standards of living in the area. Over 100 people attended the event.
During intermission, Center organizers G. Smith and Eric Barker led a panel on how to bring ideas of localization and sustainability to Indiana County and Southwestern PA. Panelists included Molly Rush of The Thomas Merton Center, who described the TMC’s new mapping project that will help identify the many localization projects throughout the region, and Craig Stevens of The Three-Rivers Community Foundation, an organization committed to supporting programs that address economic justice. Representatives of the IUP Environmentally Conscious Organization (E.C.O.) and Jane Baumer also spoke at the panel, as well as Professor Susan Comfort of the IUP English Department. Audience members responded enthusiastically to Dr. Comfort’s words as she addressed the theater at large:
“I want us to recognize the wealth that we have in the people of Indiana county, and that there is real wealth here in this room.”
Many more ideas were generated during the second discussion of the evening, following the end of the film screening. Some people suggested turning to organizations that are already active in the county for resources and support, such as the Indiana Community Garden and the Indiana Farmer’s Market. Others mentioned a wide array of creative and unique ideas for encouraging sustainability in Indiana, such as developing local currency, establishing a co-operative food market, community supported agriculture (CSA), building more community gardens, time-sharing plans, and more.
The ideas drawn from the evening’s discussion demonstrate the strength and passion possessed by the people of Indiana. The first film screening shows that the Indiana community is ready and willing to generate a local, sustainable economy through cooperation, commitment, continued education, and action.
The Indiana County Center for Community Growth film series will continue for the next five months until late July. This month’s showing features the fracking documentary Triple Divide (2012) by Melissa Troutman and Joshua B. Pribanic, which focuses on the shortfalls of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the controversy surrounding natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale. Triple Divide will screen on Friday, March 29th at 7:30pm at the Indiana Theater. Those who attend the film are asked to make a small donation to cover the costs of the film, the theater rental, and other costs.
The Center for Community Growth also raises money for this project by means of membership dues. To join our organization, you can follow us, become a member, or make a donation on The Center for Community Growth website.