Friday, August 15, 2014

Sustaining change and alignment

The field behind the house is nowhere near as pretty as it was a month or two ago. The purple and yellow and white flowers have gone to seed. Now the view is dominated in greens and yellows and tans, with an occasional sunflower brightening the scene with splashes of yellow and dark brown. We live in four seasons country which means, if we pay attention, we're constantly exposed to changes in our environment, many of which we tend to take for granted, or ignore.

late June prairie wildflowers
late June prairie wildflowers
Photo by J. Harrington
Nature has been changing since about day one, although I wasn't there at the time so, personally, I can't testify to that. We call natural changes over time, and adaptations to a different environment, evolution. If Nature weren't always trying something new, we wouldn't often have "invasive" species looking for new niches to grow into. Life seems to involve accommodating, or adapting to, lots of changes. One of the big questions we humans face is how we want to adapt to changes in our lives. Lots of us resist change. I've heard several contractors and their subs, when faced with green building requirements, express concern since "we've never done it that way before." We need to get better at managing change and adapting to new circumstances, especially in light of global warming.

Some places and some organizations seem to be setting good examples the rest of us could follow if we wanted. The first one I want to mention today is home-grown in Minnesota. Brian DeVore, of the Land Stewardship Project (I'm a member), has a recent blog posting on Saving Minnesota's grasslands: Conservation, cattle and community. He notes the push back the new approach is generating and the acknowledged need for proper training before using the new management system. Contractors and subs were more amenable to changes if training in the new system was provided. If we want to live in a sustainable world, we need to change and get training so we can get better at replicating the work Nature has been doing since the start. (There's another article that gives more background and insight into the reality that managed rotational grazing isn't a silver bullet for all sites.)

early August field
early August field
Photo by J. Harrington

A different kind of change happened to Vermont, which I often think of as kind of a mini-Minnesota, when it got beaten up pretty badly by Hurricane Tropical Storm Irene. Vermonters responded by, among other things, trying something new. They prepared a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. It's intended to "help Vermont build become more resilient in the face of economic and natural challenges..." Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development has a strategic roadmap. I couldn't find mention of resilience, although there is a recognition of global competition. The guidance for the agency is a listing of federal and state laws and DEED policies. Alignment appears to be up to the reader.

The purpose of this comparison isn't to suggest that Minnesota should become Vermont. It is to suggest that, as Dana Meadows noted in her speech that we linked to yesterday, the basic start to sustainability is to have a shared vision. Minnesota used to have a clearer vision for itself as a sustainable place to live, work and play, back in the early 1990's. Now, as far as I can tell, not so much. That's going to make it harder, and possibly more expensive, to achieve the future we want and need. We could take a major step forward by agreeing that the human economy depends on the environment, and not the other way around. Vermont is starting to do that by including the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) in their economic strategy. That's an example Minnesota would be wise to consider. (I think, as a recovering planner, I just suffered a "slip." Time for a meeting of Planners Anonymous before I end up elliptical.)

Elliptical

By Harryette Mullen 

They just can’t seem to . . . They should try harder to . . . They ought to be more . . . We all wish they weren’t so . . . They never . . . They always . . . Sometimes they . . . Once in a while they . . . However it is obvious that they . . . Their overall tendency has been . . . The consequences of which have been . . . They don’t appear to understand that . . . If only they would make an effort to . . . But we know how difficult it is for them to . . . Many of them remain unaware of . . . Some who should know better simply refuse to . . . Of course, their perspective has been limited by . . . On the other hand, they obviously feel entitled to . . . Certainly we can’t forget that they . . . Nor can it be denied that they . . . We know that this has had an enormous impact on their . . . Nevertheless their behavior strikes us as . . . Our interactions unfortunately have been . . .     


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