Welfare is a touchy subject. I support safety nets, but letting people live on benefits for ever is unhealthy, dependence and exclusion are serious issues. There’s a balance to strike.

Welfare takes many forms. Imagine a child, living with its parents. The parents are vital, providing food and shelter, guidance and correction. However, once the child hits twenty, you might expect them to branch out, find their own home, learn how to manage money. If the ‘child’ stays at home into middle age, many might think there’s a problem.

Too much dependence stunts growth. Striking out, rising above welfare payments or parental apron strings lets people grow, learn new skills, become a more open and understanding person. Living on your own or finding work brings chances for rewarding activities, such as raising your own family, making your own decisions, learning how to manage money. The benefits aren’t always clear until the child leaves home or secures employment.

Nature parallels welfare. Nature provides us with the basics, food, water, air, even gravity and a shield from the Sun’s radiation. However, living on Earth limits our potential for growth. Our actions affect the environment, research into genetics and nuclear energy needs care, the Earth’s finite nature and limited resources constrain us.natureprison2

Fish and other marine animals live in their own ecosystem, but it confines them. Most tool use happens on the land. Did I mention fire? Our environment confines us as well, and many of the benefits of leaving our environment won’t become obvious until we’ve left. Earth is a cradle, we can’t live there forever.

People ask why we should explore space. I’d reply by asking why life spread from sea to land. The two questions have similar answers. Sea life wasn’t helped by the spread to land, but life itself benefited. It could do more, learn new skills, develop new tools, explore widely, ultimately create humans.

Our environment helps and hinders us. We depend on nature, yet it has abandoned life forms in the past, as happened with the Great Oxygenation Event, where new types of bacteria spewed oxygen into the air, destroying existing microorganisms. Nature changes, and humans should develop enough skills to survive on our own, ensure the essentials keep coming, whatever happens.

Nature doesn’t owe us; we need to stand by ourselves. We’re not there yet, humans resemble a young teenager, still reliant on parents, but we are growing. We need more space, more freedom, more opportunities and challenges to become the best we can be.