We stand at the brink of a new era, an America devoted to service. We have the proven potential to reach across divisions and unite, to organize ourselves in order to achieve the seemingly impossible.
by Rick Richards, ’08
We stand at the brink of a new era, an America devoted to service. We have the proven potential to reach across divisions and unite, to organize ourselves in order to achieve the seemingly impossible. And, we have a profound capital available to us – our own strength and determination.
When we participate physically with the natural world, whether through hard work or pleasant recreation (and there’s nothing saying they’re mutually exclusive), we stand to make incredible gains in returns. Not only will we see the world around us increasing in natural beauty, but we will also come to feel a part of something – a part of our community and our country. Once we see the change we can accomplish with our own two hands, then we will believe in change for our country.
When our new Congress convenes, our Senators will debate the enactment of a new law – the Serve America Act – which would greatly expand the ability of Americans of all ages to give to their communities and our country through civic service. This bill will help us clean our air and increase energy efficiency in low-income communities, and re-commit to properly stewarding our forests and parks. This is exactly the kind of service SCA has been doing for over 50 years, and it’s the kind of work I did in my 10 months with SCA in Massachusetts last year.
What Congress needs from us now is a show of support – we need to prove that there are enough of us empowered by the spirit of service to take action and contribute selflessly to our environment and the very communities that seem most challenged to live sustainably.
Take a look around and you will see staggering job losses, rapidly accelerating global warming, insecurity about our own homes, and dreadful uncertainty for our financial future. It’s not an easy time, by any means, but an important one never-the-less. If your community seems broken and exhausted, then take ownership of the problems and work towards change. The more of us who engage in our communities as a part of those communities – the more we share our drive and dedication to (con)serve the world around us – the more our communities become sustainable and strong.
How can you do that?
If you have the ability to do the physically demanding work on the land, then go out and volunteer.
If you have the ability to speak and to persuade others to do the right thing, then find a group or an organization that needs a voice.
If you’ve already learned the lessons of service, then go and teach them - not just to those who want to learn, but also to those who don’t yet know they want to learn.
If you are an SCA alumni (or parent of alumni), forward this article to your Representative and two Senators and to the President-elect (and cc SCA), along with a note about your SCA conservation service and why it’s important to you and to us as a nation.
If you are in a position to legislate, then find ways for citizens to learn from and participate in the well-being of their country. Don’t take away their already few chances to serve.
If you have the financial ability to support this movement, then give, and if you don’t, then ask.
All of the barriers that we might feel stand in our way is an illusion – people will help if they’re asked to help, if they understand that they are welcome to be a part of this. We will not be short of people or of funds or of inspiration so long as we remember that everyone is a part of the change that we all believe is necessary.
Photo: SCA Founder Liz Titus Putnam (left) and Rick Richards at SCA's Conservation Commencement, August 2008.