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Issues Page

Providential Gardener's main question is

How can we get all the work done so
every Rhode Islander has an adequate living?


Answering this question is not easy. I think it involves identifying particular issues and working through a list of questions to see what we are currently doing. Then we can explore how we could improve things so more of us can have adequate livings, support ourselves, and contribute to our communities. If more people can support themselves, pay taxes, and contribute positively to our communities, taxes could be much lower and government could be smaller.


None of us, on our own, can keep in our heads how all the complex systems we have created actually work. The Industrial Revolution and computerization have drastically changed how work is accomplished. But human beings are essentially the same as people before the 1600s. It's a major problem for us, because industrialization and computerization make us think that we are beings that we're not, and that we're doing things no human being can ever do. This keeps us from paying attention to the details. For instance,


Compare how people living in Providence got water for soup in 1640 vs. 2022.

In 1640, pick up a container, walk out the door, cross the dirt path that is now North Main Street, fill up the container at the spring (which is still there, by the way), and lug it back to the house. One person. One container. Done. We get this. We can see it's a lot of work. Inconvenient. No one in 1640 would dream of getting water 17 miles from where they live.

Today, although it looks so simple -- just turn the tap and fill the container -- it involves an historical dimension going back more than 100 years to the condemning of villlages in Scituate to build the reservoir. Moving buildings and cemeteries... Buidling the reservoir with manual labor and the help of Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel in the 1920s. There are 600 miles of water mains, houses have to be connected to the mains, and so on. I've left out deciding which and how much of what chemicals are needed to keep the water safe, aeriation systems. Electric pumps and other uses of electricity are involved (eletricity is another huge complex system), and paying the water bill involves the computerized finanical system.

To describe the Providence Water Supply system would involve a relational database with more than three tables (dimensions), for instance,

  • Communities served
  • Equipment
  • Supplies
  • Providers of supplies and equipment
  • Laws, regulations
  • Building codes, certifications
  • Specs and standards so everything fits together
  • Emploees/workers with various skill sets (.e.g, billing, plumbers)

We can easily understand lugging water from a spring, but we humans don't want to think about all the ins and outs of why and how safe drinking water actually gets to Providence from Scituate. So important details tend to be ignored and then the issues defy solution. Furthermore, the big issues are numerous and interlocking, boggling human minds.

Here's another one:


Compare where people living in Providence worked in 1640 and 2000s

In 1640, people worked in or near where they lived, because the only ways they could get anywhere were by walking, riding an animal or being pulled in a cart by an animal, or rowing or sailing a canoe or boat. Human beings haven't changed since then! Walking is the only way WE, on our own, can get anywhere to this day. But we THINK we have the powers that engines and motors have.

In the 2000s I worked in the Boston area for 11 years, driving 55 miles each way the first year every work day, and the remaining 10 years driving 40 miles each way. I talk as though I myself was doing these things. But I' was not. There is no way I, or any human, can sleep in Providence, WALK 40 miles, work an 8+ hour day, CRAWL home and sleep in the same bed in 24 hours. A whole lot of people have done a LOT of work to make it possible for us to do this: just to name a few -- all the people who surveyed, designed, and built the roads, who developed driving rules of the road, who built our cars, who invented innumerable processes and machinery.....

We are not independent at all, but when we drive around in our cars wre think we're completely independent.

This interdependent system-of-systems situation is obvious, self-evident, WE REALLY NEED EACH OTHER! COLLABORATION IS ESSENTIAL!

Each issue is actually very complex, with many facets and dimensions. I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to visualize more than three dimensions. Today, however,with the complex ways we get work done, it's hard to see what we're actually doing. So how can we know how to do better?



A Research Guide on Homelessness in Rhode Island