9 December 2009

We'll need sailing vessels (repost)

Originally posted on 9 April 2007.

"If we want to make it to the future, we'll need sailing vessels" writes Dmitry Orlov of Boston, Massachusetts in the second of a trio of can-do environmental citizenship stories from Orion Magazine's new department Making Other Arrangements.

By "make it to the future", Orlov means maintenance of a functional civilisation in an environmentally sustainable future. Sailboats will figure heavily, Orlov argues, and in doing so he reminds us that a 21st Century Beagle should fly the flag for more than just science.

"Sailors and their ships run on food and water and wind—all renewable" writes Orlov. "Sailboats can be made from renewable materials as well: wood, hemp, flax, and pitch ... the trends that will once again make sailing a viable form of transportation are already in place."

Always a rich source of segues, Orion this month offers up yet another Beagle aim. In "Leave No Child Inside" (for those who understandably tune out American politics, this is a play on George Bush's No Child Left Behind strategy that many argue leaves plenty of children behind), Richard Louv paints an achingly appealing picture of a future in which children and nature are reconnected as a central function of education.

"Such a future is embodied in the nature-themed schools that have begun sprouting up nationwide," writes Louv, "like the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center Preschool, where, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in April 2006 'a 4-year-old can tell the difference between squirrel and rabbit tracks—even if he can’t yet read any of the writing on a map.'"

And so should be the Beagle: a floating nature-themed school that gets youngsters outside and fosters their native intelligence of nature amongst other virtues. And on these I'll give Orlov the last word: "The culture of sailing is rich, ancient, and largely intact. It is also a culture that fosters competence, fitness, self-reliance, and courage, which are all sadly missing from the world we see around us."

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