I found this highly telling.
Over the years, I've received thousands of letters from kids from every state in the nation, except for one! I'd love to change that. If you know someone who lives in #RhodeIsland, have them write me a letter at Smokey Bear, Washington, D.C. 20252. We can do this, RI! pic.twitter.com/ihlGdIvKUP
— Smokey Bear (@smokey_bear) April 7, 2019
This is actually really amazing. None? But then Rhode Islanders thinking about the environment is a tough sell. It’s not that environmentalism doesn’t exist here. Save the Bay is a long-standing organization and there are lots of grassroots activists too. But I’ve never lived in a state with less attention paid to the environment, however broadly one wants to define it. This is certainly not a political thing. Plenty of people with right-wing politics in red states will talk about the environment in a way that at least reflects conservationist values because they loved hunting, even if they hate what they think of as environmentalists. I’ve taught environmental history in four different states, including in Texas and Ohio, but nowhere have I had more trouble inculcating basic concepts than Rhode Island, because the only type of environment most students ever vaguely think about is the beach, which in terms of talking about environmental complexity is perhaps the least helpful because it is a pretty barren little environment. That’s opposed to coastlines generally, which Rachel Carson wrote so eloquently about and that I would think students would at least sort of consider. There are plenty of forested spaces here as well, so it’s not a reflection of the state being some urban hellhole, which isn’t true and which is an environment of its own anyway.
Obviously, I’m generalizing here and there are many exceptions. But that tweet really spoke to me and my experiences living and teaching in Rhode Island for 8 years.