Giving Up Is How You Win

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Danger in Plain Sight

Another interesting opinion piece by Thomas Friedman over at the NY Times. As with many of his recent articles, Friedman is once again covering the topic of sustainability and transition – how we survive our multiple current crisis (environmental, resource, financial, social, political, etc) and move to a new phase (as painlessly as possible, one would hope). But the reality is, it’s not going to be painless… here’s an excerpt from the article (which is itself a letter from a guy named Mark Mykleby):

“I’d like to join in on the blame game that has come to define our national approach to the ongoing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. This isn’t BP’s or Transocean’s fault. It’s not the government’s fault. It’s my fault. I’m the one to blame and I’m sorry. It’s my fault because I haven’t digested the world’s in-your-face hints that maybe I ought to think about the future and change the unsustainable way I live my life. If the geopolitical, economic, and technological shifts of the 1990s didn’t do it; if the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 didn’t do it; if the current economic crisis didn’t do it; perhaps this oil spill will be the catalyst for me, as a citizen, to wean myself off of my petroleum-based lifestyle. ‘Citizen’ is the key word. It’s what we do as individuals that count. For those on the left, government regulation will not solve this problem. Government’s role should be to create an environment of opportunity that taps into the innovation and entrepreneurialism that define us as Americans. For those on the right, if you want less government and taxes, then decide what you’ll give up and what you’ll contribute. Here’s the bottom line: If we want to end our oil addiction, we, as citizens, need to pony up: bike to work, plant a garden, do something. So again, the oil spill is my fault. I’m sorry. I haven’t done my part. Now I have to convince my wife to give up her S.U.V. Mark Mykleby.”

Mark has it 100% right. There’s no one to blame for where the world is today except you and me. We, the 6.69 billion polluters, consumers, spenders, influencers and voters – of which only a insignificant fraction of are politicians. By our actions we decide daily where our world is going. And unfortunately, we continue to decide poorly. Most of us are unable to think beyond our immediate boundaries (walls, people, needs) – and even those that do aren’t able to do enough to counteract the forceful disregard so many others have for the impact of their decisions on the world we all share.

Sometimes makes me think Karl Stromberg, antagonist in the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” had it right. He’d given up on mankind’s ability to save itself – and intended to blow up the world so that it could be reset. Hugo Drax (another Bond villain) and Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) also had similar ideas. I wonder what those characters would say about where we are now.

Ironically, we don’t need James Bond super-villains to accomplish such nefarious goals. We’ll get there on our own – through continued bad decision making and unchecked consumption. James Bond can’t stop a planet full of villains. Can you?

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