The Wind in Whats Left of
What a beautiful spring
morning in otherwise humid and hot South Florida. I have left
for work at 7:30 a.m. on my half-hour commute.
The top is down on the Jeep
convertible, the temperature is 70 degrees and satellite radio
is featuring the Bach Toccata and Fugue. I have it turned up
loud, although I sadly lack a high-powered booming sub-woofer
so that I can thoroughly annoy all the surrounding drivers
when I stop at a traffic light. It is one of those mornings
where you are very glad you are alive.
On the other hand, I realize
that the gas mileage on my beautiful yellow Jeep is terrible
and that it is certainly not a vehicle which reflects care and
stewardship of the planet. Perhaps it can be replaced in the
future by a yellow, four-wheel drive Prius.
Thats the subject of this
article the internal conflict in the American conscience
about being green and living in a nation that consumes more
energy than any other in the history of the planet. This is an
international conflict, a local one and one occurring inside
this authors mind even while dictating this article.
The moments of joy we find
in that celebrated American institution, the car, and its
first cousin, the long commute, will be evolving. This
evolution has implications for each of us, our families and
our communities, and certainly for the workplace.
For most of America, mass
transit is not popular and not the transportation method of
choice. As we ran out of frontiers to explore and to move to
in the last century, the internal combustion engine and the
chance to go for a drive began appearing as a substitute to
the adventure of moving west to settle in a new frontier.
While about 17 percent of
Americans move every year, probably none pack up everything in
a covered wagon and move to a farm homestead on a prairie.
That engrained American concept of going off to the frontier
with its unknowns, its excitement and its dangers was replaced
in the past couple of generations by auto trips, RVs and
Despite how exciting this
can be, and with love and respect for the auto and RV
industries, we are approaching a point during my childrens
lifetime where that engrained behavior will come crashing into
reality. The reality is that the internal combustion engine is
increasingly inconsistent with long-term human survival. We
are whittling down the remaining oil supplies on the planet
and the huge worldwide infrastructure built around oil.
We face geopolitical
consequences such as a continuing or growing instability in
oil-producing countries, political mischief to align
ourselves with oil-producing governments, and debates about
the nuclear versus coal versus oil power industries.
We will find increasing
social and economic challenges to our current models of
thinking and behaving at work and at home.
After all, how many mass
transit executives rely on mass transit to go to work? How
many environmental protection professionals rely on mass
transit? The answers are indicators of the essential problem.
Imagining that we will always remain at the top of the
international food chain is unrealistic and leads to poor
and destructive public policy decisions.
If our transit is to truly
become mass rather than a social service underpinning
disguised as viable mass transit, there is considerable work
for the planning community to undertake to make living in a
higher-density urban area more attractive, economically
viable, socially acceptable and personally
If we harness Americas
advertising and marketing machine to help by showing our
celebrity gods and goddesses using bus systems, it might be
more exciting and more acceptable.
Perhaps Jason Taylor, the
football player, can be photographed dancing down the aisle of
a 40-passenger diesel bus with only two or three other
passengers on board!
In most mass transit
systems, fare box revenue simply does not pay for the cost of
The answer might include
boldly eliminating passenger fares entirely. We must come to
recognize that only by making mass transit compellingly
attractive, will we begin to chip away at the habits and
entitlements commuters see. We must come to realize that a
better model is worth a try. This will be a long climb for an
entrenched mindset to change.
Significant amounts of the
work that government executives do can be done by remote
technology, including video conferencing. Besides remote
technology as a more commonly accepted basis for work, we must
focus more on work team efficiency and cohesiveness, and
personal self actualization.
The time wasted on our
average daily 43-mile commutes could be used far more wisely
in relaxation, learning, coaching our children, volunteering
in the community or dreaming. As someone who has visited
Europe many times speaking at public administration
conferences and engaging many of my European friends, I
believe the saying is true that Americans live to work while
Europeans work to live. We take less vacation time. We are
not as well traveled or fluent in multiple languages, nor as
comfortable in multiple cultures.
As the HR Doctors family
discovered, it is amazing to see the positive impact on your
childrens growth and maturity when you invite exchange
students to live with your family. In the case of the
Rosenbergs, our house was honored to have seven exchange
students over the years. The result had a significant and
positive effect on the beautiful HR daughters.
These exchange students are
smart, adventurous, multilingual and kind people who have a
lot to share and a lot to be curious about. In a global
economy, having business and government exchange colleagues
spend time as a regular feature in your agency will have
a similar enriching impact on staff development. As a side
benefit, imagine the great answering machine recordings by a
person with a classy British, French, Spanish or other
Thinking about the future of
our planet and our communities creates considerable dissonance
when it is stacked up against the reality of how our society
The HR Doctor, who loves
national parks, is a member of the Sierra Club, has planted
10,000 trees on forest land in California and enjoys hiking,
is having a wonderful time in a vehicle which is fuel
inefficient. He lives in over-crowded South Florida
society. This is a region of perhaps 100 different public
agencies competing with one another on issues as diverse as
how many fire departments or police agencies (or HR
departments, for that matter) are really needed, how many
poorly regulated zoning areas are tolerable, how many high
school students will not graduate, and much more.
Agencies are often quick to
make sweeping and positive commitments, such as anywhere in
20 minutes but only marginally able to marshal the resources
and the will power to deliver on the promises. That must
change and soon. Our traditional reliance on the hope
of some breakthrough technology to save the day is not likely
to appear fast enough or strongly enough to overcome the
tremendous inertia of ingrained political and personal
Resolving dissonance means
having a vision and taking deliberate and consistent steps to
bring vision and reality closer together. The opposite of
dissonance is harmony.
While this article might
have started out about the joy of driving a favorite car with
the wind blowing in whats left of my hair, it is really about
the increasingly urgent policy and behavioral brain
transplants needed to be in harmony with the survival of the
our real community the earth!
As that famous retired
elected official, Kermit the Commissioner, said, Its not
easy being green. However it is increasingly critical and
The HR Doctor http://www.hrdr.net/