Peter Comings

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Peter Comings

Interview by: Jake Holtzman

Peter Comings is a resident of Oberlin who grew up in town and came back a few years ago with his family because of the positive, forward-thinking mindset he sees here. One of his hopes for Oberlin is that people come to see themselves as important parts of the sustainable, progressive actions Oberlin is taking.

Q: What are some words and images that first come to mind when describing Oberlin?

A: College, green, both the thought process and the actual world around it. I grew up here born and raised, so Im surprised in some ways by how little has changed in the town. The features of it are, much of them, still the same. I think that its a town thats willing to try things.

Q: So you grew up here, but did you move out at any point?

A: Yeah, I graduated from high school, then left and went to Iowa for ten years, Michigan for ten years, and then three years ago moved back with my family.

Q: What made you decide to move back?

A: When I looked at Oberlin and Northeast Ohio I saw that the unemployment rate was marginally better and I had become aware of the Oberlin Project. And at the time, about 2009, we were still really feeling the initial shock wave of the markets doing what they were doing. And I see Oberlin trying to stand up and say were not gonna depend on forces outside of Oberlin, were gonna see what we can do inside of Oberlin to create something sustainable. And that seems a very positive, forward-thinking move, like it would probably gain an enough traction to have a meaningful life to it. That and just the general cultural diversity.

Q: What does the word sustainability mean to you?

A: I could answer that differently probably on any given day. So just stream of consciousness, sustainable is approaching development in a way that doesnt burn itself out, whether it would burn itself out because of using up resources or having used up enthusiasm. Sustainability also has an environmental component. Some probably look at that as the primary definition of sustainable - water conservation, conserving electricity. And what I think is great about what I see as the Oberlin Project is that it tries to bring all of that together.

...were not gonna depend on forces outside of Oberlin, were gonna see what we can do inside of Oberlin to create something sustainable.

Q: What kind of things are you doing in your life that you would consider sustainable?

A: You know I turn off lights in the house, encourage the kids to take shorter showers. We buy from the farmers market. Other things - I want to invest myself more in the Oberlin Project. So Ive, in the last year, tried to pay more attention to the Oberlin Project and how I can help be a part of the definitions that come from that.

Q: Do you have any specific messages you would like to share with other community members about why this is important and how we might make changes toward sustainability?

A: Well I gotta believe that a lot of the community already believes that. Even people who live in town who dont know that they think that way might surprise themselves if they go somewhere else. In December I went to a community meeting that was put on by the Oberlin Project, and after I was saying that maybe I had a mistaken concept of what the Oberlin Project was. I knew what I wanted it to be, but I wanted there to be more apparent conversation about it in the community. So I blogged about it. In December I created a Google Plus page called Whats your Oberlin project - capital Oberlin, lowercase project, because Im not trying to identify it precisely with this entity here. For me, being able to communicate those messages happens more easily when Im in a group or in a conversation and can hear in real time what people think. I have conversations prepared in my head for when people dismiss the Oberlin Project, so I could say, Well what do you already do? Do you turn off a light when you leave the room? Well then youre part of the Oberlin Project. Do you use the energy saving light bulbs? - okay, Oberlin Project. Do you grow your own tomatoes during the summer? - Oberlin Project. Just to find whatever little kernel identifies with the Oberlin Project. I think that there could be enough of those drawn together where people could start to be more passionate about it.

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