Other than the Patriot’s annual march to the Super Bowl, 2019 has been off to a pretty rough start. While the federal government shutdown is finally over, for the moment anyway, it did highlight the great economic instability confronting a shockingly high number of American families. It was indeed sobering to see how quickly many federal workers lacked the ability to weather just one missed paycheck. Until recent times, federal workers enjoyed a degree of economic job security not shared by the general population. The events of the last month highlighted not just the vulnerability of federal workers to financial insecurity but that of the broader population that perhaps we do not heed as much as we should.
It’s hard to have watched and listened to people struggle with making ends meet and not to have gained some important insight into the fear and insecurity of the daily lives of so many of our fellow citizens. Of the many lessons is a partial explanation of why more people are not more involved in civic life in general, and engaged on the environment in particular. It’s not because people don’t care, or that they are ignorant. Maybe it’s because when you live paycheck to paycheck and are one major illness or accident away from serious financial pain or bankruptcy, the environmental issues of the day take a back seat. Sure, open space protection and clean water are important, but not so much perhaps if you are also worried about the mortgage or paying for college or choosing between prescriptions and food.
What the last month helped drive home to me is that an even bigger part of the population than I thought is living closer to the edge, more than we all want to think. How can you not rethink what you assume after seeing food collections for Coast Guard personnel?
As APCC moves forward as an organization we have to be more aware of the trade offs that are part of daily life for our fellow citizens. Taking full account of the economic pressures many people experience should challenge us to advocate for policies and laws that help people as well as the environment.