Many on the political right claim that there are millions of inter-generational welfare recipients. The people that they claim to be pulling down the middle class through their "cheating". Who has not heard of the "culture of poverty" that the Rethuglicans claim to be able to incarcerate away. Having been raised on welfare and having none of my mother's four children on welfare, I wonder what kind of soul crushing experiences could possibly encourage a child who has grown up in poverty to want that for their future. The very possibility of such a thing in even a small percentage of individuals who are in poverty for generations only proves that we abuse and neglect our poor rather than giving them a hand up. In several of the cases where I tried to make a positive change, by myself, one person at a time, taking in a homeless person, or helping them to better their station, I soon found that there is an abject lack of social fabric to keep them from falling further out of the fold. Our social garments are tattered. Surely, we can foresee the lasting effect of neglecting those among us who are in the greatest need. Without question, the abuse of those least able to protect themselves has become a cancer across our culture.
I guarantee that as long as the austerity rhetoric holds sway in political circles, less money will be spent to help these throwaway people. I was homeless myself several times, but have made my way back to working for the bank. Even though my experiences with "homelessness" seemed easy to come back from, for many, with less self-confidence, less education, less facility, common-sense or drive, the outcome could have been far more questionable. One may ask, "What does this have to do with ECO-Tours?" Well, one of our programs is in planning stages, but I'm sure I have spoken about it before. We will soon offer summer camp experiences for homeless youth. This way, their parents can have time to get established, while their children are getting important leadership development experiences, job-training as well as learning skills for sustainability that they can bring to the family as well. Cultivating the self-image and skill set of youth has so many collateral benefits that it is hard to find reason not to take time to educate and enrich them.
In college, I remember the first time I heard of Bill Strickland, I almost stopped what I was doing and my next step was going to be to hitchhike to Pittsburg to join him. His book, Making the Impossible Possible is a great text to read to help understand ways to make a difference that will not break the bank. Here at ECO-Tours of Wisconsin Inc., we do not shy away from the notion that we (humans) are also part of the environment. Rather than just exploring babbling brooks, marshland, forests and the natural wonders, we want to teach about the ways of humankind. Specifically, how living with ecology in your bones can transform the world around us, the nature of the environmental conditions that result from our actions and the nearly infinite opportunities for positive change.
Developing our knowledge, skills and attitudes to reflect the qualities that we wish to see in the future is perhaps the best way to prepare for and actually institute change that will enhance and enrich our lives in the future. some changes are truly out of our hands, but when we begin to make better decisions for our future, many more causal factors can be addressed, leading to larger and larger amounts of effectiveness. This in turn leads others to see the benefits of behaving in accord with integrity and values that are worthy of respect. quality works by example and invites reciprocation. I believe it was Ghandi who said that we must BE the change we wish to see in the world. Making an effort to always leave things better than we found them is a start.
Learning the art of the give away is also an important step in preparing for the future. Many in the "recovery" movement parrot the phrase "Fake it 'til you make it." but perhaps this makes the most sense when we use it to remind ourselves to mimic natural systems and when we learn what we learn from natural systems about fitting in to our environment. We must realize that there is no "away". No natural system creates waste, only resources for other life forms. We must also make plans for protecting entire communities or strengthening them against onslaughts that we know to exist. hoping or wishing these forces away flies in the face of reality and if we do not prepare to meet them head-on, we will be unprepared for their assaults. Reduction of our wastes is a good place to start planning for the future. Making our immediate area safer, healthier and more habitable is also crucial in preparation for the future. Reducing our need to transport ourselves with fossil fuel is also an important step. All signs point to the continued escalation of energy prices and conservation will yield an ever larger benefit for those who know how to live on less. Planting more in our gardens, or starting one if you do not already have one, planting more trees and creating more safe and healthy habitat for both humans and other creatures will be essential if we are to enjoy a quality of life worth living in the future.