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Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Fixing the auto mess

A November article by NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman spoke to the trouble with our big 3 American automakers.  The article got me thinking about other ways we might address the problem.  Rather than bailing out the auto makers, what if we followed some of Friedman’s advice and then implemented a more radical solution to the long-term issues of the American economy, transportation systems, and smarter practices?

The Federal Industrial Redeployment Program:

We can prepare for the eventual failure of the major US automakers by laying the groundwork for the rapid creation of an entire ecosystem of new, 21st century transportation companies, an entirely new industry, to be staffed by the line staff (not leadership or ownership) of the former Big 3.

The goals of the program would be three-fold:

  1. quick re-employment of thousands of skilled workers
  2. reintroduction of the conditions of competition and innovation
  3. creation of transportation companies focused on next-generation vehicle technologies and standards

Instead of a bailout, we could use the money to create what essentially would be a business (industry) incubator.  It would be a 2 – 3 year program, with the government (or some agent thereof) playing incubator to the complete range of companies, from design to aftermarket suppliers.  All of them would be required to incorporate new technologies and new sustainable standards.  The program would facilitate connecting entrepreneurs, workers, and investors.

Fanciful?  Perhaps, but increasingly we need completely new perspectives and more radical ideas that can mobilize a wide range of actors to engage in the problems and to generate a multitude of experiments and possible answers.  As so many are starting to recognize today, simply shoring up the past is no longer sufficient to ensure our future.

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Filed under: Business, Economics, Sustainability, Transportation

Climate Change Video Set

The Council on Foreign Relations has an interesting little video set about Climate Change.  Those of you who attended the Summit this year might compare this with the presentation given by Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, looking at Climate Change, energy, and carbon emissions.

One of the interesting things you find in the climate change/sustainability discourse is the tension between those who are looking at large scale changes and those who are looking at small scale changes.  There emerges from different quarters a difference in the basic strategic approach advocates for change have adopted for addressing both climate change and sustainability.  Some see the challenge as great in scope and advocate for major structural changes, such as new generations of technologies or significant shifts in infrastructure and processes.  Others believe in advocating change on an individual basis, promoting the implication that what’s needed are only small personal changes in order to address the roots of climate change or unsustainable lifestyles.

But a reliance on only either of these approaches is likely incorrect.  If observing complex systems has revealed anything, it is that they usually do not produce the outcomes we desire simply in response to a single strategy of change.  Complex adapative systems are composed of many agents, each involved in different relationships with other agents.  When we act, that input resonates through the system in usually unpredictable ways.  Unlike making a single great shot as we do in billiards, when trying to effect change in CAS we probably need to take a much more tentative approach, one comprised of many experiments with lots of feedback and adjustment.

One of the things that Hawai’i lacks is a really good strategic framework that presents a number of strategic approaches to effecting change to deal with both climate change and sustainability.  We need approaches that address the structural realities of modern living, as well as approaches that galvanize individuals to make their small (in-system) alterations in behavior.  Change on the scale that we talk about here requires us to address the many different levels of modern living, and eschewing the traditional and outdated belief in single strategies or ‘silver bullets.’

If you can dig this kind of thinking, then join us on Summit Net, the network for people who are concerned with the big-picture, rule-changing possibilities for Hawai’i’s futures.

Filed under: Change, Climate Change, Hawai'i, Sustainability, Uncategorized

Rail Rantings

When we catch the headlines about the rail debate (when we can see past the happily panicked headlines about the economy that the media generates), we get the sense that, like in most emotionally charged issues, a bigger picture or context is being lost.  Some people want it to ease traffic, some want it because it will reduce dependence on oil, and others oppose it because it will cost them money for little personal benefit, or they worry about the disruptive impacts, or maybe they don’t like the mayor.

But we have a very challenging situation (and not just us in Hawai’i [we just feel more threatened], most of modern society) that we need to begin to seriously address: the built environment that we grew up with was designed without any sense of the long-term consequences, some of which we are now experiencing: pollution, traffic, energy dependence, sprawl, loss of ‘community’ and social capital, etc…

  • We created the car (the horseless carriage) and figured out how to make bazillions of them
  • The internal combustion engine won out as the basic technology, with cheap oil for fuel
  • We started building cities and towns around the car and its roads, rather than around people
  • We figured out how to create financial mechanisms so that everyone could ‘afford’ multiple cars
  • And cars came to symbolism freedom and independence and have come to be seen as a right of passage into adulthood

So, most of the world we know, and parts of our identity and sense of empowerment come from this history.  If you tried suggesting that people need to give up their cars, you’d be ignored almost out of hand.  Not just because it represents personal freedom but also because they would have an extremely difficult time getting to all of the things they need to get to in one day.  Yet it seems very clear that if we are to achieve the kind of sustainable world and enjoyable lifestyles that we all say that we want, then we do need to seriously and critically examine alternatives and opportunities for transportation systems and communities in Hawai’i.  Rail is certainly one possibility, but even if it’s not the one we ultimately go with, we have to continue to make very serious (and not necessarily costly) changes to our transportation behavior and options.  The context is much bigger than the mayoral debates might focus on, and the stakes ultimately are much higher for the next 20 years of Hawai’i’s future.

Not incidentally, we will be exploring options and alternatives for our transportation and mobility at our annual Hawai’i Futures Summit this October 3 and 4.  Check it out and join us.

Filed under: Built Environment, Hawai'i, Sustainability, Transportation

Paper from Not-Trees

Scan: WorldChanging.org had a recent article on Canada trying out wheat pulp to produce paper rather than from the more traditional trees.  These are exciting types of experiments and innovations: striving for an indefinitely maintainable lifestyle that doesn’t simultaneously ask us to go back to a pre-industrial society.

Thoughts: I think the importance of these types of experiments, just like trying to use corn to make biodegradable plastics, are that they hint at the broader array of strategies that we have to begin to invest in.  In terms of making change, at least the kinds of dramatic and systemic changes that many people are hoping for, it is unlikely to come from a single strategic thrust, like grass-roots ‘do-your-part’ movements.  Getting everyone to use CFLs makes everyone feel good, but it doesn’t in any way alter the system: how electricity is generated, how houses and light bulbs are manufactured and distributed across the planet, or how we work at ‘jobs’ to make ‘money’ to ‘buy’ these things at ‘stores,’ to which we drive on asphalt surface roads in ‘cars.’

An array of strategies, each aimed at a different leverage point, is important.  Attention and resources have to be drawn to investing in the next set of technologies that will undergird a 21st century lifestyle, and these technologies come from more than just energy: they certainly have to include things like paper, plastics, and electronics.  So, our question comes to: what are the array of strategies that Hawaii as a collective can employ to effect the kinds of changes so many seem to want?  What (realistic) roles can Hawaii imagine for itself within the national and global drive towards a different economy and a different impact on the planet?

Filed under: Hawai'i, Sustainability, Technology

Hawai’i: the Reboot

2 days. 200 innovators. A new future for Hawai'i.


The Hawai'i Futures Summit 2009 October 16 and 17, 2009


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Vision Foresight Strategy

We work with organizations to anticipate strategic change and to craft the strategies that will shape their desired futures.


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SummitNet

Summit Net is the network for people who are concerned with the big picture, rule-changing possibilities for Hawai'i's futures.
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