The Green Column #54

Luddites and Flat Earth Advocates

October 26, 2011—The 30-year and 3-month anniversary of the shuttle space flight program is a good time to think about change, human progress, sustainability for the future, and terrestrial/global conditions in comparison to local conditions.

Where would we be today if the Flat Earth theorists or the Luddite attitudes against the industrialization of cities would have prevailed in earlier times of civilization?

We certainly would not know as much as we know about the universe and the stars and the planets; we would not have cars, planes and all the useful tools and technologies; we might not have the pressures of global over-population due to the continuation of agrarian life styles and a persistence of pestilence and disease; there would be no choices between global or local economies; and most likely, governments—if they existed at all—would be more feudal than democratic.

There seems, throughout history, to always be those among us who choose to resist change, attempting to propagate the status-quo, advocating to take no risk, to minimize the value of knowledge and education, and in general choosing to reflect from hind-sight rather than forward-thinking vision. Unfortunately, the pattern persists today—even in Lincoln.

Why does it matter? Why should we care about human and collective community attitudes and values?

First, it matters because our ancestors and predecessors have given us such marvelous resources and opportunities for more improvements.

Since the Industrial Revolution and now, in the Post Industrial Revolution, we have all (unfortunately, not yet equally) benefited in education, health and longevity of life, economics, freedoms of mobility and business enterprises, and engagement in participatory forms of government. Such positive changes to our life styles and opportunities would not have occurred within a context of status-quo thinking.

But, I suggest that it is even more important now, in this Post Industrial era to give attention to such attitudes and values because the impact of the very successes of the human inhabitation of the earth, along with the natural events and conditions of the earth and its terrestrial systems require our very best thinking about the future of the species.

There are new imperatives in this era for change, that demand better planning and more conservation-based actions than in previous times. Humanity has not previously experienced such pressures. Succinctly, the new drivers of change are:

  • Climate change—both natural and human influenced
  • Over-consumption of the earth’s critical, limited natural resources
  • The continuing dramatic growth of human population
  • Urbanization—the fact that most people now choose to live in cities
  • The diminishing supply of fossil fuel and carbon-based sources of energy
  • A sufficient, nutritious, and safe supply of food for human consumption
  • Inequitable distribution and limited supply of potable water

According to research in psychology there are at least five reasons why individuals may resist change:

  • The person is, in general, against or negative towards all that is new or different;
  • The person is not interested in the idea/the change. He/she has other goals that he/she wants to pursue;
  • The person does not understand the message and/or the consequences that the change will make on his/her living situation;
  • The person does not trust the person who communicates the change initiative;
  • Fear of losing something of value, or of being involved in something not of value.

At the local level, there are a number of new initiatives about to come before the citizenry that have the intention of continuing Lincoln’s historic efforts and successes in creating and maintaining a community that values diversity, education, economic vitality, good quality of life for all citizens, and a healthy and safe environment.

Against this heritage of good government and good planning many people and organizations have become aware of the new sustainability imperatives, and the need for new plans and strategies for continued growth and development in the context of a changing world around us. Some of these plans will represent local changes from the status quo and the means and methods of the past.

There is no doubt that change is important for today’s businesses, organizations and governments. As new facets of the economy, the environment, and society evolve, organizations have to keep themselves a step ahead of the curve or suffer and crash.

Peter Senge, MIT-based author, researcher and management educator, has said, “The unhealthiness in our world today is in direct proportion to our inability to see it as a whole.”

As we begin to work our way into and through new recommendations for a comprehensive plan toward the year 2040, and the ensuing debates and considerations about the micro strategies and design ideas for neighborhoods, budgets, transportation systems, schools and public facilities, and concepts for growth and development of the city and the county, we need to carefully contemplate the drivers of change, and the interdependencies among the key drivers and our shared core values for community life.

We would do well to think frequently of the lyrics to the song “Memories” from the Broadway production of Cats(1981):

Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise.
I must think of a new life,
And I mustn’t give in.
When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory too,
And a new day will begin.

© Lincoln Green by Design