It is our choices... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. - J. K. Rowling
There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them. - Denis Waitley
The #1206 “fiction” series continues …
Gabriel stared bleary-eyed at his laptop screen, pushed back from his desk, stretched his arms and legs and then slumped into his chair. He had been absorbing data for months regarding something that had been nagging him and now his brain felt like it was ready to explode.
“I need a walk”, he said to nobody in particular and five minutes later, found himself walking down the street. Instead of using the walk to relax his brain, he found himself struggling with the data he had left behind in his office. He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn’t see the dark car pull up beside him.
“Excuse me, Mr. ____”, a voice called out, “A word if you might?”
Gabriel looked up, startled to hear his voice being called and looked in the direction of the voice that called out to him.
“Me?”, asked Gabriel quizzically.
“If you don’t mind”, replied the voice, its owner hidden behind a partially opened but darkened window in the back of the vehicle.
Before Gabriel could answer, the driver of the vehicle had stepped out and opened the back door. Gabriel squinted to see inside the darkness and against his better judgement, climbed in as the driver closed the door behind him.
Gabriel noted the opulence inside as the driver positioned himself up front and the vehicle pulled away.
“Thank you, Gabriel”, said a voice from the seat facing him, the details of the owner of the voice obscured by the darkness. “Not everyone will climb into an unknown vehicle just because they heard their name being called.”
Gabriel said nothing as he looked around the vehicle.
“Where are we going?”, he asked tentatively.
“Not far”, replied the voice, “This vehicle affords us the opportunity to speak frankly without being seen or overheard.”
“Why would we need privacy?”, asked Gabriel, “Why would you think I would be involved with anything that requires ….”
“One step at a time”, interrupted the voice sternly and with a voice of authority, silencing Gabriel.
“That’s better”, the voice observed, “Now, tell me, how is your research around climate change coming along?”
Gabriel stood up straight with a start.
“How did you know that I ….”, began Gabriel.
“Not important”, the voice interrupted again, “How is it going?”
Gabriel paused for a moment before speaking. “I’m frustrated”, he said quietly as he stared at the floor.
“Why are you frustrated, Gabriel?”, asked the voice.
“Well”, began Gabriel, “I hear a lot of talk about preventing climate change and a lot of debate about who caused it ….. but …. but …..”
“Yes?”, asked the voice.
“Well”, Gabriel began again, “It appears to me that people are avoiding the complexities and realities of climate change.”
“And what are those complexities, Gabriel?”, asked the voice.
Gabriel paused, frowning as he did so. “Who the hell is this guy?”, he thought.
“Who I am is not important at the moment”, the voice said, as if reading his mind, “What are those complexities?”
Gabriel sighed, years of frustration threatening to implode his brain. “Climate change has always been a part of the Earth’s past”, he said, “The Earth has gone through cataclysmic change many times before.”
He paused before continuing.
“As a matter of fact”, he said, “Where we are at this moment was once a tropical forest, another time it was an ocean floor and now it is considered a desert. As recently as the mid-1800’s, the Arctic was completely ice-free. So the people who are claiming climate change as being strictly man-made are clearly wrong.”
“Yes”, replied the voice, “And?”
Gabriel cleared his throat before continuing.
“While we may or may not be the cause of it this time, we are likely contributing to it, accelerating it or amplifying it”, replied Gabriel.
“Yes”, replied the voice, “And?”
Gabriel frowned in annoyance. The disembodied voice seemed to be guiding him to a conclusion that both already knew.
“Well”, said Gabriel in a sigh of frustration, “We have spent over 20 years talking about how to prevent it or slow it down, who is to blame for it in the past, who should get a free pass from legislation now, how we should tax the planet with all kinds of tax schemes that in reality have nothing to do with solving anything ….. but …. but ….”
“No one is talking about how to survive it”, said Gabriel, his voice trailing off.
“Yes”, said the voice gently, “You are right. Why do you think that is, Gabriel?”
“I don’t know”, replied Gabriel.
“You’re smarter than that”, chided the voice gently, “Think.”
“Perhaps too many people benefit from not changing things that need to be changed”, suggested Gabriel.
“Very true”, replied the voice, “And?”
Gabriel racked his brain but shrugged his shoulders in capitulation when no other thought came to mind.
“Perhaps”, offered the voice, “It’s because the politicians, government leaders and others don’t actually have a solution or worse – they either know what’s coming and don’t want to panic the people because they don’t have a solution to offer, they are using it to intimidate or control people in a global power play or they are in accountability avoidance mode.”
“Accountability avoidance mode?”, asked Gabriel.
“Yes”, replied the voice, “Most of your leaders have proven themselves unworthy, incapable or disinterested in solving the world’s problems in the areas of nuclear war, global poverty, economic model predictability and the like. Because of their past failures in just about everything significant, they have given you something to fear, convincing you that they are working on the answer but then telling you not to expect an outcome for ten years or more. That gives them a free pass with little accountability and responsibility in the meantime. Meanwhile, they can portray themselves as heroes, surrounded by a rabid group of followers that labels anyone as “ignorant” or “uninformed” should someone question climate change or what our glorious heroes are doing to save us from it.”
“Would our leaders really be that devious?”, asked Gabriel, already anticipating the answer.
“Think about this”, replied the voice. “Since when have your governments really produced effective, long lasting solutions to any problem that mattered?”
“I dunno”, Gabriel said as he shrugged.
“Exactly”, replied the voice, “Here’s an example. Your governments have been working on the homeless problem for years, always citing a lack of resources as the reason why it hasn’t been solved before. All the while they tell you they are working on it but if you listen closely to what they are saying, you will realize that they don’t fully understand it and as a result, they are proposing answers that can’t work.”
“Yeah”, challenged Gabriel, “So?”
“Ask yourself why, when the Syrian refugees start arriving in the hundreds of thousands, and millions in some countries, you instantly have resources allocated for education, housing, food, medical support and the like. You are told that housing the masses is a complex problem that requires years to solve and yet nations have solved it almost over night for the refugees. Meanwhile, the homeless still await solutions. A solution is always available when good PR points can be harvested from it, Gabriel.”
Gabriel frowned but said nothing as his brain processed what the voice said.
“Here’s something else to consider”, continued the voice, “Some years ago, long before climate change was a buzzword in public discourse, British scientists discovered that climate change would expand the deserts of the world, diminishing the amount of land available for growing crops. Scientists realized this and approached the government in England, pointing out that with diminished crop production, wars may develop over food availability. When asked what should be done, the scientists replied that there were three options. 1. Learn how to grow crops more efficiently in the unaffected areas. 2. Learn how to terraform the desert areas, converting it back into fertile land. 3. Design new tactical nuclear bombs that could be used when war over food erupted. So you could prevent a problem or react to a problem. Which option do you think the government chose, Gabriel?”
“I’m afraid to guess”, said Gabriel.
“You know your species well, Gabriel”, the voice replied with a touch of humor, “They chose option three, to build new weapons and then called the project Lifeboat Britain. The project, while not entirely secret any more, is known to a small group of people. So there is an example of a government that promotes global responsibility while actually contributing to global irresponsibility, saying one thing while embarking on something completely different.”
Gabriel said nothing.
“Did you know that at a recent aviation safety conference, aviation safety officials conceded that the frequency and intensity of potentially aircraft-damaging turbulence would climb significantly. When a reporter heard this, the reporter asked an official if this presented a potential problem for aviation safety. The official noted that only in one or two incidents has an aircraft ever been downed by turbulence and the reporter accepted the answer. The reporter was deceived since the official intentionally answered the question using past turbulence data and not future, more complex data which may present greater concern for air travel.”
“Why are you telling me this?”, snapped Gabriel.
“I’m trying to demonstrate the importance of asking the right questions around climate change so that your species can take more appropriate actions or actions of any value at all.”
“My species?”, asked Gabriel, feeling agitated, “I’d like to get out now. You’re just another crazy person with crazy ideas.”
“Of course”, replied the voice calmly, “No need to be rude.”
The car pulled over at the instruction of the voice.
As Gabriel slid towards the door, the owner of the voice leaned towards him, his large, glittering eyes being the only thing visible to Gabriel.
“Before you go, Gabriel”, the voice said, “Think about this and then take your questions to City Hall tomorrow and ask yourself if you see anything but delay and obfuscation. The sad thing is that as your species sits there buying time or delaying any kind of useful action, climate change will run right over you and potentially wipe you off the face of your planet. As you contemplate your questions, remember that politicians either don't have the answers to your problems or are unwilling to sacrifice their political careers by telling the people what it will really cost to protect them in the future and for this reason, they punt the problem to the next administration. When you are finished with City Hall, take your questions to your nation’s capital and see if they get answered there. Ask your questions as many times as you like but be aware that the more times you ask, the more of the wrong kind of attention you will receive.”
Gabriel paused, staring at the glittery eyes as they intently stared back at him, shivered and then opened the door. He stepped out into the blinding sunlight and closed the door behind him. The car drove off and as it did, Gabriel realized that they must have just been driving around the block repeatedly as he was not far from where he had been picked up.
He walked back to his office, deep in thought.
Gabriel sat in the visitor gallery of City Hall, his hands shaking as he reviewed his questions. The man in the car had made him angry and then afraid and now he wanted to see for himself.
“We will now hear from Mr. ____”, said the City Clerk, “Please approach the microphone, Mr. ____.”
Gabriel stood up, straightened his jacket and walked over to the microphone. “Thank you for entertaining my questions”, he stammered as he fought to compose himself.
He took a deep breath, counted to three and then addressed the City Council. “Using the data I have analyzed from various global climate change groups, I anticipate that significant events will take place within this city within the next few years, including storms that are more frequent and more intense than anything we have experienced in the past. What we have typically labeled as a storm of the century in the past will happen with greater frequency moving forward.”
“Do you have a question?”, asked the Mayor.
“Yes”, said Gabriel, “What is the City doing to protect its infrastructure from increased rain, snow, wind or other elements associated with such storms. Based on my calculations using City data, our infrastructure including water drainage, sewage disposal, electricity production and distribution and many other things will be seriously compromised or destroyed because of these storms. What is the City doing to protect its citizens before and after these storms arrive?”
“Excellent question”, replied the Mayor, “We will soon begin a review of our needs in this area and the results will be sent back to Council for review.”
“And what happens then?”, asked Gabriel.
“When we have those results”, replied the Mayor, “We will work with our counterparts at the provincial, state and federal levels and work on a study that links our local strategies together.”
“And then?”, asked Gabriel.
The Mayor frowned before responding tersely, “We will make appropriate decisions then with the data at-hand.”
“When will the first study be completed by the City?”, asked Gabriel.
“I’m not at liberty to say at this time”, said the Mayor, nodding to the security guard standing at the door.
“Do you have a guess at timelines?”, asked Gabriel, “You guys have been travelling the world in style on our dime for over 20 years talking about this.”
“Not at this time”, replied the Mayor.
The security guard took Gabriel by the elbow and began to guide him away. Gabriel shook him off and staring at the Mayor, asked accusingly, “Why won’t you answer my questions?”
“I did answer your questions”, the Mayor replied coolly, “Council is very transparent and will always entertain the questions and concerns of our citizens.”
Guards escorted Gabriel to the front entrance of City Hall and released him.
Gabriel straightened himself up, glowered at them as they re-entered City Hall and began walking towards the street.
As he reached the street, the familiar dark car pulled up in front of him, the window opened partially and a voice he knew spoke. “How did it go?”, it asked.
Gabriel felt the sting of sarcasm in the question but said nothing, still embarrassed and smoldering from his City Hall eviction.
The back door of the car opened from the inside.
“Step inside, Gabriel”, the voice said, “I have an idea.”
Gabriel started to walk towards the car ….
To be continued.
© 2016 – Harry Tucker – All Rights Reserved
I could write a background piece much longer than the post itself. When I initially contemplated adding supporting links, I realized that I would overload readers who are intelligent enough to do their own research. However, a few thoughts that one can confirm for one’s self:
- The Arctic was indeed ice-free in the 1800’s. We didn’t contribute to that event nor did we contribute to other events known in our planet's past. I'm not denying climate change but rather, merely pointing out that we have proven examples where the Earth went through a cataclysmic cycle without our help or provocation.
- It is true that we spend more time in assigning blame or coming up with half-cocked solutions without really knowing the true cause. To find out at the last minute that we were wrong (or that we never started on a plan to survive until it was too late) is offensive to a strategy-minded, risk-mitigation-minded person such as myself. It should be to you also.
- Lifeboat Britain is real and is currently underway, a sad reflection regarding how we make reactive choices based on war rather than proactive, preventative choices.
- The concerns about aviation safety in light of climate change impact are real. However, since we haven't honestly solved aviation security yet, does it really matter?
- Laws such as Presidential Executive Directive 51 and others exist to provide some semblance of government continuity in times of disaster, including disaster from climate change. Wouldn't it be better to harden our infrastructure and the like in advance rather than wait for it to fail or do governments not have the courage to tell us the effort and cost required for such preparation (a politically costly move)?
- How much would it cost to implement a solution? The Paris Treaty, which is not that far-reaching and doesn't solve all the issues, is estimated to cost between 12 and 16 TRILLION dollars over the next 25 years (details here). What politician is willing to sell (or try to sell) an incomplete, unproven solution to the people at that price?
If you care about the future of your family and the people that matter to you, ask your local political representative what the plan is to survive the ravages of climate change that they insist is coming. If they say that we will prevent it, and recognizing that disruption from climate change has happened in the past without our help, ask the politician to humor you and then ask for Plan B (survival) on the off chance that we can’t prevent it.
Ask them why they believe they are right and then ask them for data to prove how they know.
And then decide what you need to do when you realize that the answer falls far short of what you expect and need.
This series, a departure from my usual musings, is inspired as a result of conversations with former senior advisors to multiple Presidents of the United States, senior officers in the US Military and other interesting folks as well as my own professional background as a Wall St. / Fortune 25 strategy advisor and large-scale technology architect.
While this musing is just “fiction” (note the quotes) and a departure from my musings on technology, strategy, politics and society, as a strategy guy, I do everything for a reason and with a measurable outcome in mind. :-)
This “fictional” musing is a continuation of the #1206 series noted here.