Thursday, January 5, 2012

One Flower At A Time

What do gardening and politics have to do with one another?  Quite a lot both worldwide and in your own back yard.

Consider the laws pertaining to our water and air quality, the park systems, roadsides, outside recreation, disposal of waste, protection of wildlife, native plants, and preservation. Not to mention the standards created (by laws) for what can be sold and truth in labeling.  Research labs, big business, and universities are all tied in some manner to laws.  Laws are tied to politics.  Politics is tied to money.  Money is tied to self interest. 

We have some great benefits for the protection and advancement of nature in the United States which resulted from legislation.  Consider our vast park system that was created by legislation. 

This photo from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas in Austin. 
I thought about all this while reading an article about Lady Bird Johnson’s influence upon the landscape of America.  She not only used her position as First Lady to influence preservation and reclamation laws, she did it as a volunteer.

Lady Bird knew how to rally people into making laws (Wilderness Act-1964 and The Highway Beautification Act-1965 among others); she knew how to get things done using donations and volunteers.  Often she used her own funds for projects.  

And herein lays my point:  We don’t always need to use tax monies for well deserving projects when government is in debt.  While expecting our politicians to get their National, State and local budgets in order, citizens will have to accept the responsibility for our special interest projects. 

I think we’ve see this kind of citizen participation in our own town of Galva where volunteers use donated flowers and volunteer labor to beautify public areas.  Whereas in years past local citizens may have expected the City to handle those expenses and duties, it now falls to volunteers.  Bravo to those who have taken this project and shown we don’t have to lose something just because government can no longer provide.

As the President of the Freedom House Board of Directors (a women and children’s domestic abuse shelter and services), I see firsthand how government monies can affect the operation.  The Board and staff are dedicated to keeping the shelter open, perhaps expanding.  To do this we must have volunteers and benefactors who take on the responsibility of replacing lost government assistance. 

Citizens can no longer sit back and “care” without stepping up and “doing.”  It’s a shift in mindset. 

Not all government programs can or should be discontinued.  That would be as irresponsible as our current debt crisis.  If our political leaders decide to balance the budget with significant and intelligent fiscal management, our citizens must step up to the plate.  Improving this country’s fiscal situation starts with one tiny flower planted by a volunteer in a city garden and one informed vote for government officials who understand they must act responsibly.  Citizens and government working together – is it possible?  One flower at a time folks!   

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