Making the world a better place, part 2

I can’t believe how many hits  my first blog on this subject got!  I guess it is an actively searched subject. So…. let’s explore this further….

It’s important to read about how the rest of the world view us, the ‘do-gooders’— to know what they think makes their communities strong and livable. Too bad they don’t teach this stuff in elementary school social studies. Maybe the facts are too scary.

What follows, in no particular order, are some aspects of  life to consider:

Restorative Justice.  I recently  became interested in this subject after reading an article in a magazine.  Most of us in America—probably due to the media, have a sort of melodramatic view of prisons, prisoners, and the  criminal justice system.  Lock ’em away, make them rot. They are all psychopaths.  Well, ah, no.  Not true. That is naive. I worked with  ex-offenders  at a non-profit.  Most are  just regular guys who  got involved with the wrong people. Truly.  I hate to put it this way—but the  people in your church:  the flock—going with the crowd, not taking individual initiative, respecting  and following the wrong guy.  Many did not mean to harm anyone, but they did.  Now, they want to turn their lives around.  It takes more than forgiveness.  Heck, I am not the most forgiving person.  But most of these guys will get out of jail, and they do not  want to reoffend.  If we don’t create a space in our communities to mentor these guys, they will re-offend, because they know that way of life more than they know how to  fit into a community.

Yet,  in very few  jails or prisons do  they  get any  services analyzing whether they have learning disabilities, psychological issues  that they can over come, or learn any viable skills. They don’t even grow their own food!   This is not the 1960s!  We’ve learned what best practice is, but we allow our  politicians to  maintain a medieval system!  The only people who care at all are families of offenders or victims…and the emotions involved cloud how to redevelop the system.

The United States has more people in prison than any other country.  We pay more  to keep people incarcerated than we do to get people college educations or vocational skills. Why? We  interpret the ‘Bible’ to mean that vengeance is more important than any other value.  I am not sure the opposite is understanding or tolerance.  But—with jails so over crowded, who  do we want separated from the rest of us?  Drug dealers or psychopaths?  People who drove the getaway car where  someone was murdered in a crime, or actual rapists? Think!  We can’t lock them all up. We can’t afford to anymore. How about making sure those who will get out of jail learn skills they can use to support themselves.

Hey—I  know it’s tough.  I can barely support myself with the skills I have…but the reason is….I can’t afford to get my car fixed, or other work around my home.  However, if there was a co-op I could join to get my car fixed more  cheaply, or get  my house repairs done more cheaply, we’d all benefit.  Also, I have been told that the average service dog costs $40,000 to train.  Some prisons have programs where inmates train dogs. There is no logical reason why all prisons should not be partnered with their local  pounds and humane societies to make  dogs more adoptable by having them obedience trained, and identifying possible service dogs.  Yet, the politicians make this almost impossible.  We can not afford to have so many  people —particularly physically strong men—in prison who don’t  know how to function in the greater community.

Recycling.  It’s the easiest thing to do that  makes an impact quickly.  It’s no secret that the throw away concept was marketed to Americans after World War 2.  Disposable everything. Well, there is no  away.  Don’t believe what you hear about stuff not really being recycled & ending up in landfills.Yes, loads do get contaminated… but most does go for remanufacturing—especially  paper & metals.  So, quit using paper plates & cups, plastic dinner ware, & start bringing your own bag for when you go shopping.

Advocating for or mentoring kids in the foster care system.  This is a huge issue to me.  Most of us don’t think about kids in foster care.  Well, start thinking. They don’t get mentored, & they don’t have  advocates.  Most of them end up being homeless or in jail, because they don’t feel part of a community.  They have no resources. Once they age out, that’s it.  I know  they make it difficult to volunteer…but you can provide the agencies with books, art supplies, clothing, tickets to  shows & events, etc.

There is a wonderful nonprofit called SOS Childrens villages and they sponsor housing and foster mothers all over the world. So, if kids luck into their housing, they have ‘families’.  Most state foster care systems pay barely enough to keep a kid going.  It’s not a profit making venture…& with so many people having kids because they just didn’t think about birth control or even tomorrow, this is a problem for all of us.

Family planning & health services  Support this. The fact of the matter is, most women  want to have large families if they can afford them. What has happened, however, is that, as the world has urbanized, and women (particularly better educated women) come to understand that you can’t rely on a man to support your kids, they are choosing to have smaller families and space their births so their kids can thrive.  Very few women in the  developing world want abortions, unless they are raped.  One of the reasons many women want more kids  is because so many kids die, and there is also no governmental pension or social security for old age:  you expect your children to look out for you.  Yet,  now, there is also the challenge of coping with diminishing resources–especially fresh water.  Zero population growth is 2 children per couple.  I have no sympathy for people having more than 2 kids & complaining about how expensive things are—especially in the USA.  It’s short sighted & disingenuous.

Fresh Water, access to real information/communications infrastructure.  We are creating  more ways to access more information more quickly  due to the  cell phone revolution, but we have all the fresh water that has eve been created. There is a net energy loss with desalinization (meaning, it takes more energy to make water fresh than it provides back to us).  This is shocking, until you remember that matter is neither created or destroyed.

Literacy (particularly  science literacy)  Literacy is still a huge issue in many remote places in the world—particularly Africa. If you can read and write, you can save information and don’t have to remember everything.  If you can read and write, you can learn about stuff you don’t  deal with every day.

Sustainability & renewable resources  We can’t worry about the Chinese taking all the resources, when we are doing nothing in the USA to curtail our own greediness.

Democracy.  Gosh, what a messy system of government…but it is the only way to get rid of corrupt politicians.

Vegetarianism.  I have to admit, I am a carnivore, but since I know how  food animals are treated, transported, & slaughtered…& how  many resources they  use…the  compassionate thing to do is eat lower on the food chain…if only for personal health reasons.  You’d be amazed at the ways you can make beans, lentils, & soy products taste like meat. Worth looking into.

Humane treatment of animals.  It’s not   can they feel, or can they think…but can they suffer.  It shouldn’t be an either/or choice.

Animals—particularly pet animals, are big business in the USA.  If you have a choice…and you do…choose ‘cruelty free’.  Stay out of pet shops that sell animals.  Don’t buy meat if you don’t know how it was slaughtered. There is no reason to test  cosmetics or  home cleaning products on animals. Don’t wear fur.  Don’t go to rodeos or circuses for entertainment…and if you see animals neglected in zoos, report this to the  General manager & local news media. Its’ important.


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