Most of us never give this much thought -- the librarians* among us are most likely to think about this, but even many librarians find cataloging boring and tedious. The fact is that everyone automatically categorizes everything every waking moment. Let yourself think about this: you got up this morning and you did different things in the bathroom than in the kitchen. You put clothes on, not the drapes. You looked for forks or spoons in the silverware drawer, not the sock drawer. And so on. If you sat in a car or on a bus you expected it to take you somewhere, but when you sat on a chair or the couch, you expected to stay put. That's enough to make the point that we naturally, unconsciously, and everlastingly group similar things and use all sorts of "buckets" that help us get through the day.
We humans also organize the whole world into academic disciplines, nations, religions, philosophies, cultures, professions... there may be as many ways of organizing the world as there are people. And how we group things in "buckets" shapes how we think about the world.
Providential Gardener has a particular focus on Rhode Island and takes the view that Rhode Island is one whole garden that we all tend (or trash). ProvGardener has been thinking about buckets for grouping environmental information for several years, beginning in 2006. You can see in the right sidebar of this original Providential Gardener blog that there are lots of categories -- too many to manage easily. This is what happens when you don't have an overall plan. I started somewhere and one thing led to another. Eventually there is a mess. There is no way in this Typepad blog to have multiple types of terms. Ideally, there should be at least a town/city set and an event type set. However, it led to the next project....
In 2008 ProvGardener created What Grows On in Rhode Island, a project to create a comprehensive online calendar of environmental events in Rhode Island. You can see that What Grows On has about 30 environmental categories in the sidebar of the main calendar. (It's the pulldown list under "Categories.) This is an improvement on the ProvGardener blog categories, but there are a few problems: Pollution and waste are really separate categories, and law and justice also should be separate. I think Astronomy should be added, and Nature/Outdoors is ok, but I am thinking maybe it should be Exploration?
Anyway, I am integrating my various websites and want a standard, comprehensive set of basic categories that describe "The Environment." I would love to hear what you think about this breakdown:
- Gardens & Landscapes
- Health & Safety
- Invasive Species
- Laws & Regulations
- Natural Resources
- Planning & Development
- Public Works & Infrastructure
- Social Justice
I want to keep to around 30 environmental categories - the above list has 33 terms. If it gets too long, it becomes unmanageable. As it is, 33 terms is quite a lot. But the world is complex, and narrow focus will not help us cope with the problems we face. Everything is interrelated.
Some further points:
- These terms work for the thousands of events that have been in What Grows On in RI for the last 7 years.
- The terms should be meaningful to the general public rather than specialists. I like "Critters" which includes insects and birds and all other animals/creatures. Is Critters too cute?
- I want to use "Farming" rather than "Agriculture" because we have both agriculture and aquaculture in this state, and Farming covers both of them.
- Social Justice is another term for Environmental Justice. Since everything ProvGardener includes has to do with the environment, I'll call it Social Justice here.
- I'm not committed to "Exploration" yet instead of Nature/Outdoors, which I've been using in the Calendar. This is the catchall for children's nature explorations as well as for walks, hikes, etc.**
- I also think we need "Other" for stuff like wreath or candle making and "Fairy Houses for Adults" -- "Other" has been useful for identifying a need for new categories, such as Weather and Astronomy.
All of these categories describe ways that Rhode Islanders approach, interact with, and impact our natural environment. And since every person has unique sets of interests, the categories help individuals find the things that most interest them quickly.
Feedback welcomed! Email ProvGardener with your thoughts about these categories.
*Full disclosure: I'm a professional librarian who loves thinking about categorizing stuff.
**The calendar has a separate index of EVENT TYPES, which handle Nature/Outdoors and Other better than the specific environment-related categories.