Wednesday, January 18, 2006

In my own backyard

The following letter has appeared in the HT and the Bloomington Alternative...

In my own backyard
January 15, 2006

by Millie Jackson

Out my window on Oct. 24, I witnessed the day-long destruction of a house in my beautiful neighborhood of Green Acres (the neighborhood immediately east of the IU campus and west of the 45-46 Bypass between Third and 10th Streets).

The house had been purchased by the State of Indiana for the 45-46 Bypass expansion – an expansion that continues to be delayed and is years away from happening. Given the reality of imminent Peak Oil and the financial instability of the State of Indiana, I wonder if this project will ever come to fruition.

With that in mind, it was particularly disheartening to see decks, sinks, woodwork, insulation, pipes, etc., crumbled and loaded into dumpsters – usable items destroyed in a matter of minutes.

I watched in amazement as dust and debris filled the air. I closed all my windows and decided to delay my yard work to avoid exposing myself to the obviously unhealthy air.

Throughout the day, there were a variety of workers around the site – not one wearing a mask. I was shocked. I thought masks would have been mandatory for exposure to this kind of destruction. But I also thought that removing all usable items from the house before destroying it would have been required. The unnecessary waste and lack of common sense that I witnessed was upsetting.


In all fairness, I should let you know that I was still beaming that fall day from attending the Simply Living Fair in September and the Bioneers conference in October. Both events filled me with hope and inspiration in regard to a sustainable future for Bloomington.

Just the fact that these events are available to the Bloomington community is encouraging to me. For only $16, I attended a total of eight workshops over the weekend of the Simply Living Fair, as well as the informative and sobering keynote address regarding Peak Oil.

The Bioneers conference was totally free. I experienced three days packed with amazing speakers, workshops, and keynote addresses about innovative and resourceful solutions for a sustainable future. Attendance was surprisingly low, which baffled me. What does it take to get people more involved?


Well, it took witnessing wasteful destruction literally in my own backyard to get me more involved. Encouraged by members of my neighborhood association, I wrote a letter to the editor – the first time in my life – regarding what I witnessed.

Perhaps my disillusionment surrounding the destruction of the house lies primarily with my own lethargy prior to the event. I knew the house had been purchased by the State. I knew that the family that was living there had moved out. I assumed it would not be torn down without usable items being removed first.

I assumed that “someone else” was looking into how the house could be used – perhaps someone who owns a home in Green Acres, since I am “just” a renter.

Then there were my afterthoughts. How many more years could a family have lived in that house? Could an organization like Habitat for Humanity been allowed to remove usable items prior to the destruction? Could our neighborhood association have taken over maintenance of the property and used it as a community center?

The now-empty lot and additional traffic noise and headlights that were once blocked by that house are painful reminders for me of where inaction gets us. My thoughts about possible uses for the house came only after it was gone. I made a lot of assumptions and had justifications for my inaction.

I care deeply and am concerned about what is happening in the world. I recognize that we are entering a time of great crisis in regard to the depletion and destruction of our natural resources. Life as we know it is going to change dramatically in my lifetime – it is unfolding all around us.

Yet, I still had done so very little to make a difference up to this point. I sometimes find myself wondering if it really is “too late” for us to actually accomplish a sustainable future.

I want to believe that it is not too late. I find comfort in knowing that the wasteful destruction of that house awakened the activist in me. Silence does not serve us, and it certainly does not make problems go away – it makes valuable resources go away.

Millie Jackson can be reached at

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