Nate: Happy fall, Becca! This might be my favorite time of year: cooler weather; fewer mosquitoes and tourists; the promise of wood fires and the autumn harvest. Plus, election season is around the corner, which I enjoy as both observer and participant. How are you faring?

Becca: Thanks for baiting me, Nate!* Having a uterus (which is, you know, just mildly phenomenal), I’m glad I don’t live in Texas with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting a $10,000 anti-abortion bounty. But we in Maine hold responsibility for two-faced Senator Susan Collins, who consistently endorses anti-choice judges. I’ve been feeling joy to get to wear a sweatshirt, cozy pants, and think about tea, the warmth in the throat of it. But fall is a bittersweet time. Leaving the wild abandon of summer and moving toward winter that isn’t the winter we used to have, and now this pandemic still clinging to our skin. How are you really, Nate? You can’t be that unrelentingly happy all the time.

Nate: Well, I suppose that I’m concerned about the housing crisis and gentrification in Rockland, which isn’t new, but during the pandemic we seem to have unwittingly ventured into a future much more stratified (and perhaps stultified) by class. But we’re trying some things: an inclusionary zoning ordinance (thanks, City Councilor Sarah Austin!), a housing land trust (still in planning stages), and an advisory ballot referendum concerning zoning in Rockland. You and I feel somewhat differently about the ballot referendum, whose text is: “Do you support amending Rockland’s zoning regulations to allow smaller, more efficient, more affordable dwellings?”

Becca: Yeah, in our text thread you said, “Becca, I disagree strategically and practically.” Which was interesting because we have never disagreed about anything before. As I said in the text, I think the question put to the community should be clear that it is simply an advisory vote — a straw poll. But I also think it should have been about giving people as much direct power and participation as possible. Fundamentally, it’s obscene that five people make decisions for 7,200 humans (and birds, water, etc.). But I’m nonetheless glad the city council is pursuing ideas to try to intervene in the housing crisis.

Nate: I think we disagree on a lot! Examples: The nature and efficacy of markets and competition (I’m avoiding the word “capitalism” here because I think we mean somewhat different things by it); space exploration; onions.

Becca: How the hell can anyone oppose onions? Also yep, space exploration aka colonization — the amount of money and time spent on that when there are close to a billion hungry people on earth each day is a sad statement on priorities.

Nate: I remember how inspired I was as a child to study technical subjects (in my case, primarily mathematics) because of space exploration, and I wonder how many scientists and engineers wouldn’t have pursued their dreams had they not been so inspired as well. I don’t love space tourism by billionaires, but I am deeply moved by the images and discoveries of the cosmos and physical universe that the broader enterprise of space exploration has brought to us. Well, despite my enthusiasm, I don’t think we have the money for a Rockland Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Becca: There are plenty of dreams to be had and dreaming to be done — like feeding and housing and nurturing everyone on the planet and still marveling at the stars without exploiting them. So I do not buy your argument. Earth itself is not amazing enough for you?!?

Nate: I admit that Earth is pretty amazing. Unfortunately, we’re not doing a great job caring for it. Though Rockland is advertising for a new half-time sustainability coordinator to help us do at least a little better. One of my regrets on city council (yes, I do have some regrets!) is that I didn’t push for this position to be full-time in this year’s budget. Becca, maybe we should do a column where I tell you all my regrets and mistakes?

Becca: OK ... but how honest are you going to be able to be? What about a basic human needs coordinator (which is a sustainability issue)?

Nate: Pretty honest, I think, as long as it’s about my own failures rather than other people’s! I’d be open to something like a basic human needs coordinator, if we could find an appropriate way to assign responsibilities to such a person.

Becca: I’ve seen it work amazingly. Do it! ... but without making property taxes go up.

*When Nate sent the google doc link to start the column he wrote, “I’m kind of baiting you again by being so happy!”