Friday, June 9, 2023
June 9, 2023

Viewpoint: Imagine a great future


The new year affords us the opportunity to look a bit into the distance. Will we make a resolution, reflect on the year past, or set a goal for one year from now? Is anyone looking farther into the future?

We live in a world of quarterly reports, monthly rent or mortgage, hourly pay or paid biweekly, and parking by the minute. Time is money. Our reality is immediate.  

Climate change creates another pull to deal with the immediate. There is more certainty in the short time frame, but to neglect the longer view is to miss out. All great things are only possible inside a medium or long view. Things such as getting an education, building or buying a house, committing to a career, or having children are an expression of medium-range thinking.  

Long-range thinking is to think and plan beyond one’s lifetime in order to benefit one’s descendants, or the future of the human species.  

The future we create can be anything but frightening. It needs to be so great that we can’t wait to get there: something bold, adventurous and compelling pulling us forward. It will allow us to have an incredible destination against which we can measure progress. And that created future will need to be recreated periodically as we gain knowledge of our current reality or see something better for the future. It is a dynamic future. It is not a static prediction, but a shared, most worthy goal. 

And it is not a waste of time. It is actually the most urgent thing that we need to do. More urgent than the climate emergency, more urgent than the housing crisis and more urgent than stopping clear-cut logging. Why is it worth stopping fossil fuels, clear-cut logging and wealth disparity? We necessarily have lots of “no’s” these days, but what is the alluring “yes?” Creating a movement of “not that” lacks clarity and joy.  

Perhaps our island is a place where we can create a “yes” that is worth going for. We currently live in a disagreement surrounded by water, the source of which is short-range thinking. What’s in it for me (WIFM) and Not in my backyard (NIMBY) are not possible conversations inside of long-range thinking. 

The Islands Trust has begun “long-range” thinking inside of a 30-year window. This does not remove WIFM or NIMBY, as people will still engage from their self interest. I suggest a seven-generation (7G) or 200-year horizon, as Chief Seattle spoke of. 

People who are hooked on NIMBY, WIFM and “how much does it cost” may have difficulty with the notion that we desperately need a long-range goal to aspire to. This does not remove the essential activity of lining up where we want to go as a community. The beauty of a long-range goal is that it can be anything you/we want it to be.

Incredible accomplishments are possible if there is broad agreement on a goal, whether it be a man on the moon, the world wide web, or open heart surgery.

I would love our community to have such power locally as we engage in a conversation that is beyond self-interest, and only for the good of this island and its future inhabitants.


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