I’ve been thinking of ways to get people to understand what we’re doing at North Country Sustainability Center.  When I say “cooking, sewing, woodworking…” a glaze comes over the listener’s eyes.  I think they may actually picture me in a Rosie the Riveter coveralls (Not that I’d mind that.) Reskilling does explain it some to extent, but I have become fond of a new subtitle “A Place for Remembered Skills.”

This gets across the idea of re-skilling, but it also allows us to explore different aspects of “lost skills.” What about just being considerate?  When do we stop encouraging children to be aware of their words, after age 7?  Do we “age out” of listening out of respect?

Just watching the political campaigns I wonder where people learned their manners.   Were they told at one time that they are the only ones entitled to have an opinion?  Did they suddenly go through a “rudeness puberty,” where they no longer had to think how their words might be perceived by an audience, so they were no longer responsible for what their words might do? Did they stop having feelings so they might avoid making personal attacks?

This country was based upon the concept that two people could be in a room, discuss their disagreements and FIND a way forward. Perhaps one person was completely swayed to the other side of a disagreement,  but often it was finding a “meeting of the minds,” where both sides of the discussion would be respected and a compromise would be met.  Sometimes that was the end of the conversation, and other times it was revisited if it was discovered that more drastic action was needed on one side or the other.  Being diplomatic was important in being a politician. Now it seems to be more admirable to be stubborn.

I am not a good politician, but I try to be a respectful person.  My mouth does sometimes run amok, and words blurt out without my even being aware of them, but when that happens I’m not afraid to say “I’m sorry.” I try to explain my feelings in a more compassionate, respectful way. That’s just my idea of being civil, and that has unfortunately become a lost skill.  We need it back.

NCSC does exist to teach practical skills and sustainable ones, but in my opinion our culture isn’t sustainable if we don’t remember how to respectfully disagree, to discuss calmly, and to find common ground, because progress is more important than being right.

As our environment suffers around us, we have to find that part of our personalities to calmly explain why we have to do something to save it.  I have family members who don’t recognize man made climate change, but not because they are ignorant.  It’s because the media that they grew up trusting is no longer reporting facts, but interpreting data with certain shadings.  But if I could get through that wall of “being right,” they would recognize that even a fish dies if it lives in polluted water, and doesn’t have fresh air added, and chemicals removed.  If a human is put into a sealed room, they eventually pass out or eventually die, if they aren’t allowed fresh air and to remove the carbon dioxide that they exhaled.
Essentially we live in a large sealed room, but we don’t live alone.  If each person on the planet acted mindfully of their Earth neighbors, we could probably repair things fairly quickly.  But we have some people who just don’t understand; others who believe that one person can’t make a difference either in favor, or against the planet, and then there are others who feel that money is more important than breathing and drinking.

Our lost skills unfortunately include continued education, or even recalling what we once learned.  While our schools struggle with curricula and methods, we are missing precious opportunities to reinforce those lessons that we teach young children.  I think we all need a refresher course in how to be members of the human race, and the earth community.  Who’s up to teaching?