Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Prisons can Lead Environmental Change

Scientific American has a wonderful article today about inmates pitching in to help save the environment. I believe that this is a wonderful start, and that this idea should also be used in Canada.
All of the inmates in Canada have the ability to contribute something useful and because the environment is something that everyone shares, this may help them (and frankly, the general non-incarcerated population as well) to realize that this is a problem that is shared by a whole community.
I recently read a book, Deep Economy by Bill McKibben that explained that when people feel that they are in a community and inclusive group that they started acting less individually. The needs of the group were placed at an equal or higher value than the needs of an individual. Now, firstly I am all for individuality and individual choices. However, the two are not mutually exclusive of one another. Now, when people make decisions about family, work, environment, etc., never does community play a role in the outcome of those choices. This must change. You can have individuals making choices, but the community must be thought of within respect to those choices and how the choices reflect the needs and values of the community as well.
If we can get the general population of prisons helping outside communities, this will a) improve the environment and b) give the prisoners a sense of accomplishment and worth. I would rather these prisoners having the chance at operating large composts, manufacturing wind turbines, etc and using their skills instead of them watching TV and rioting. If they feel needed within the community (and for this it can be Canadian Community, Provincial Community, etc), it is a great way for them to reenter society and build skills in order to be a fully functioning member of society. Often prisons just teach prisoners how to be better criminals. Let us make them all tree-huggers instead.

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