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The Task: Describing Rhode Island's Economy

The more I work on wrangling all the Rhode Island environmental information, the more I see that our state's economy is literally grounded in our natural environment. This land, with its water access, natural resources, and location in the northeast United States, in large part determines how we can make livings here. 

The people who live in Rhode Island today also shape our state's economy. The work we can accomplish depends on the skills and abilities of today's Rhode Islanders. However, it appears that Rhode Island's population is not as skilled or as well educated as our neighbors in Connecticut and Massachusetts. So it's also important to pay attention to education in general, as well as environmental education in particular. Providential Gardener wants to be sure that Rhode Island has competent people to take care of this place in the future.

The history of Rhode Island also influences our economy. The people who once lived here left behind run-down mill buildings, dams on our rivers -- some in serious disrepair -- and toxic waste at some Superfund sites. But they also left us a a great public water system (Providence Water Supply) and a priceless heritage of soul freedom and independent, resourceful spirit, as well as Hope for a motto. To have a prosperous economy, Rhode Islanders need to understand how things got to be this way, realize what needs to be fixed or kept from happening again or preserved, and act accordingly. Let's not throw out any babies with the bathwater, reinvent the wheel, or keep making the same mistakes.

I originally thought the Providential Gardener's task was to describe Rhode Island's environment, but now I see that doing that leads inevitably into describing Rhode Island's economy, education systems, and history. With such a huge scope, there is little chance of succeeding at this expanded task. As they say, you can do anything but you can't do everything. Nevertheless, I aim to index the RI environmental information as completely as possible, but I am going off on economic, educational, and historical tangents as I wander around the information landscape.

For starters in January 2015, there's the astounding fact that more than 74,000 working-age Rhode Islanders do not have a high school diploma. No wonder our economy is in trouble. It seems to me that every Rhode Islander ought to be studying or helping others study so that we dramatically raise our collective educational achievement. That will pay big dividends for taxpayers and lovers of our natural places, making the state attractive to high-tech innovative businesses. So I am taking a side trip through the Rhode Island adult education swamp to see whether I can make it easier to navigate the high school equivalency terrain.