Are all the children in?

We have now completed all five of the sessions at the Chesapeake Watershed Forum in Sheperdstown, West Virginia. Looking back on the experience with my head exploding with information, I don’t know where to begin. I considered discussing just one of the sessions I attended but could not possibly narrow down to one hour and a half section.

I instead want to explore the idea explained to us last night by Reverend Wilkens, are all the children in? This concept can be applied in almost any aspect of life, environmentally related or not. I found that in almost every session after Reverend Wilken’s sermon this concept was at least mentioned if not intensely discussed and applied.

Looking down at the list of attendees at the conference there are professionals from dozens of companies in several states. Their focuses range from ecology and geology, to policy and politics, to advocacy and religion. On the bus ride here we discussed the variety of organizations, some non-profit, others governmental and the slight nuances and differences between them. We are surrounded by so many people with the same goal in mind, so why is the Bay still in such a sickly state?

I began to wonder if it is because we rarely ask the question, are all the children in? These organizations are separated from each other and separated from the communities of which they are part of. At the end of the day every organization and company and school and neighborhood and farmer, young and old, wants a clean healthy Bay but never sit around a table all together.

It seems simpler to stay within our groups with a like mission and understanding than making sure that all the children are in, that all the pieces of the puzzle play a part. If an organization restores a shoreline, for example, but doesn’t ask for volunteers or employ a needy population or educate the community of what they are doing, they have missed out on a prime opportunity to make an exponentially larger difference.

We discussed this issue last week as we filled oyster cages for the Chester River Association’s Marylanders Grow Oysters Program. While it may be easier and more efficient for the Association to keep the oysters until they are old enough to be added to the oyster bar, they take a different approach. By having members of the community ‘foster’ the spat until they are ready, they are educating and getting everyone excited and involved. By doing this they are making sure all the children are in.

Reverend Wilkens used the example of employing the youth and citizens returning from prison in Washington DC to build the needed rain gardens and other environmental practices to help the storm runoff issues in the area. These young men and women were then educated and employed in a program that they otherwise would most likely know nothing about. By doing this they are making sure all the children are in.

While these few examples show the benefits of including everyone in cleaning up the Bay, I can think of many more where organizations are not taking this approach. In many sessions I attended the question and answer period gave light to a competitive, blaming and almost hostile environment with little trust between organizations. They each doubt each other’s approaches, blame the other states and rarely agree on the most important issues. I can’t help but wonder if this is why the Bay still has so far to go and how different it could be if we all asked the question, are all the children in?

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