What do We Want to be When We Grow Up?
We don’t have a technology problem, we have a people problem (John Boecker, 2018). By that I mean the people working within the existing systems are not engaged in the process of change, and do not see the benefits or even the need for that change. Even when they get the “why” they face the great effort to change, and the existing systems do not support the shift. There are few people excited about the opportunities in climate change.
To frame this, try to think that climate change is truly happening FOR us. It is a signal from the systems that we interact with that we need to relate to them differently to reap great, ongoing, benefit from them and to give them, in full reciprocity, great, ongoing benefit. These benefits are not solely about energy, but tied to community, health, education, equity, beauty, and prosperity.
What is the role of state government? The attempts by Gov. Cuomo have been admirable, yet they deal with these issues in their individual silos of existence and effect, and they have failed to achieve their full needed import. The energy czar can focus only in his realm, and the social justice issues are all wrapped up in court battles, and the shift from fossil fuels to smarter choices is incrementally tiny, and missing opportunities for creation and innovation. And they need to inform each other more thoroughly.
There is good work being accomplished, and I see the very beginning of engagement that we can potentially sustain. Everywhere, in government, in communities, via not-for-profit endeavors, ad-hoc groups that have been working on mixes of sustainability/ resiliency/ adaptation/ equity/ education/ energy efficiency – and a needed redefinition of purpose. This work is iterative, exhausting, and necessary. Often there is no direct funding, no support of staff, and seldom, if ever, celebration of the work.
We need a new purpose statement for all our work, one that is co-created with the people we serve and cognizant of the systems that effect us and that we effect. One that can chart the basic course and integrative, cyclic strategy of continual improvement for moving toward achievements in every arena of consideration for all of New York. We need the right holistic language, and a constant “background” noise of it coming from every layer of the system so that we can do our work more effectively, with less friction. We need to stop doing one-off things, and make this purpose statement the standard by which we judge every decision, every law, every program, every investment, every appointment, so that we never do anything that is not informed by all systems and so that we never do anything that will undermine the progress we make.
We need to invest in the process and the people to get the results we need.
This is when we will begin to build momentum in the right direction.