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The Task: Describing Rhode Island's Environment
Describing Rhode Island's environment is a daunting task, and so far, no one has described Rhode Island adequately.
Why not? Rhode Island isn't very big. Yes, every Rhode Islander is only two or three removes from any other Rhode Islander, so everybody probably knows someone who knows someone who knows what you want to know. But that is just a trail of crumbs and does not provide the overview of all that happens concerning Little Rhody's environment. The world has grown increasingly complicated and fragmented. There is still one main newspaper in the state, but it is not read as widely as a few years ago. People may know more about what is going on somewhere else in the world than they do in their own state. And I suspect there are several "Rhode Islands" -- groups of people who never or rarely talk with or even acknowledge other groups.
Regarding information resources, which is the specialty of this website, relevant material is all over the place. It used to be that you could go to the library and read the main publications. Fifty years ago there were few organizations focused on environment. But it seems to me that in these last decades, the walls of the libraries have been blown out and the number of organizations has grown exponentially. There used to be "gatekeepers" who vetted information to be published and made available (which might have had positive as well as negative consequences). Now almost anyone who wants to publish can do so.
No matter how long folks have worked on environmental issues, it's not possible to hold all this stuff in any one person's head. We need the help of computers to give us the big picture. Here are some of the dimensions of environmental information:
FACETS: Rhode Island's environmental information has many facets. Here are some of the top-level ones:
- Classes & Training Programs
- Jobs & Careers
- Laws & Regulations
- News Sources
FORMS: Information is in a variety of forms and some information may be in more than one. Here are some of them:
VIEWPOINTS: Then there's the matter of who wants to know. Different people need different levels of information for many purposes. Here are some of the possibilities (sometimes an individual may be in more than one group):
- Municipal Officials
LOCATIONS: We are most interested in our neighborhood, village, or town/city. Even though there are only 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island, we tend to have a very local focus.
It's just too much! Consequently, most of us ignore most of what is going on in the state. If it does not directly concern us or it isn't interesting to us, we skip over that news -- to be fair, we all have loads of other seemingly non-environmental stuff to deal with. But we simply cannot continue to live here without clean air, water, and food, plus a dependable energy supply, health and safety, and a way to have a living. Everything we need to stay alive, live as long as we can, and live fully rests on our natural environment.
I hope this website will help all Rhode Islanders explore our complicated way of getting the necessary work done so we all have livings here.