Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reflections from West Virginia: Energy, Army and Opportunity

Last week, Washington Quaker Workcamps led the annual Sidwell Friends School Workcamp to Caretta, WV to work with Big Creek People in Action, partnering once again with the great folks from Upshur Helping Hands from Buckhannon, WV.
 It was another great week of fun, fellowship, hard work, community-building, deep conversations, love, and learning - all the things that create opportunities for on-going bridge-building across economics, faiths, and geography as we do what we can to promote global community visions and action that belie notions of socio-poltical-economic "bubbles" that really do not exist.

As with all Workcamps, each person has a different experience, high point, or takeaway.  One of the biggest ones for me this year is this:
One evening, Chester Ball made his annual visit to perform, entertain and engage the group in music, games and dance.  This year, he brought with  
him three teens and one pre-teen.  The teens played guitar and sang with Chester - part of his way of preserving a music tradition from this troubled region while nurturing positive activities for youth.  At one point during the evening, I sat with the teens to thank them for coming and to learn more about them.  When asked about post-high school goals, the female among the teens stated she planned to go to cosmetology school.  The males all stated that they planned to either work "in coal" or join the Marines.  I asked whether they wanted to go to the Academy or enlisted; they all said they wanted to go enlisted so they could get to the front lines fully armed and ready to fight.  Coal or Army.  That was it as far as options.  College is prohibitive because of rising costs as well as the fact that they live in a community that does not nurture the pursuit of higher education.    

As I engaged with fellow program participants in sharing this conversation, it led to even more conversations. The wonderful thing about conversations as opposed to arguments and debates is that conversations seem to lead to new insights.  One such insight I had was the irony that, in the circles I tend to float in, there is a unified sense that coal and the military are bad.  The military often is engaged in fights to protect and acquire
Testing a coal tram
fossil fuels (notably, oil), and what we need to be doing is steering people to careers in sustainable and renewable energy.  The ironic part is that the military is starting to step up in a big way in developing alternative energies, with the goal of having 50% of its energy come from sustainable/renewable sources by 2025.  

It's a dilemma.  We want to be a part of creating opportunities as well as supporting people in following their leadings.  At the same time we know that better stewardship of human and natural resources is vital to a healthy world.  For these young men, their leadings right now are to coal and/or the military.  When it comes to renewable energy, we know that coal is not the way, but the military does open that door.  I don't see easy answers, but if I did, then it would not be a dilemma.  I do find that these Workcamp experiences create opportunities to become more open to creating a safe space and talking about the issues rather than choosing sides and fueling partisanship.  Last week affirmed that.  

1 comment:

A wayfaring man said...

Wishing you all godspeed in your endeavours this year. May all be well and safe. Cheers!