I’m a city person. I’ve lived mostly in urban areas for the past 25 years. Chicago’s combination of quality of life and cost of living has made it an appealing home base. The recent development patterns, however, have reached a tipping point. Population density is increasing out of sync with the implementation of new public amenities like open space, public transportation, and a sense of neighborhood identity. Chicago is peaking, with its benefits being threatened by the drive to increase the tax base without investing in the infrastructure that will sustain and amplify its appeal.
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Body in Flight III: The Impossible Project
My mother set the example. “Guess what I did today?” she asked during an unexpected phone call one evening a few years ago, before announcing her impromptu skydiving feat. Whether scuba diving, downhill skiing, travel to remote locations, or falling from an airplane, my fearless mother has been the family’s chief adventure officer. I probably wouldn’t have jumped myself without her example.
Body in Flight II: The Psychological
All the possible metaphors. Wanting to do something memorable, I went skydiving on my birthday. It took several hours of circling the idea before committing. My internal resistance sometimes doesn’t evaporate immediately, but requires time to subside. With age comes perspective and, rather than open you up to new experiences, it can motivate just the opposite. Despite renting the car, driving the 70 miles, watching the training video, seeing lots of other experienced jumpers prepare, stepping on the plane, tucking myself snugly in front of the instructor, and even watching others disappear out the door before me, I was in denial.
Body in Flight I: The Physical
The acceleration jarred me. Sitting at the back of the plane, my feet dangling outside the door 13,500 feet above the ground, the burly instructor secured to my back, my mind went full and blank simultaneously. Courage, fear, determination converged at light speed as we lurched forward, leaving the safe, solid and secure for the unfettered mystery of free fall. Some kind of profound barrier of disbelief shattered as my butt lifted off the airplane floor and out into empty space.
Sustainable Me III
My birthday catches me off guard. I always feel that I should have been anticipating it more, making plans. Instead, I usually end up working, deferring the observation for a later date that sometimes doesn’t come. I’ve been flummoxed about what to do this year. Navigating Foresight’s projects, currently focused on food, agriculture, water, and community development, while simultaneously growing the enterprise, is the primary focus of my life.
Sustainable Me II
Today, 50. In lieu of gifts, please consider a spending time with a friend, we cant do it enough. In lieu of gifts, take a few minutes to deepen your knowledge about a meaningful subject, the world will benefit from greater understanding. In lieu of gifts, ride the bus or train to its terminus, exploring an area that you might not have otherwise encountered. In lieu of gifts, post a compelling poem to social media so that those channels might be more edifying. In lieu of gifts, send a postcard to a friend or family member to invoke the pleasure of conveying and receiving tangible media. In lieu of gifts, take a young person to lunch or coffee and really listen and understand their perspective and concerns, however, haphazard, serious, or inconsequential they may seem; too often we only see the world through an adult’s limited perspective. In lieu of gifts, see a play instead of a movie next weekend, live theater can possess a purpose and visceral immediacy that transcends film. In lieu of gifts, research in what type of companies your retirement funds are invested and see if they align with your values and view of where the future lays. In lieu of gifts, strive to more deeply understand the impact of your actions on the lives of your grandchildren. In lieu of gifts, cultivate generosity, compassion, connection, perspective and love, and share and teach it with to others with the same dedication and vigor to which it was taught to me by my parents, family, friends and, on occasion, random enlightened strangers.
Lake Lessons 3 (Final)
Four days aboard an 800-foot Great Lakes freighter transporting 30K tons of limestone and iron ore was an unexpectedly rich experience. As with the lessons shared last week, this final batch carries relevancies to other kinds of journeys, including those Foresight undertakes on its projects.
I was reluctant to disembark. Fulfilling a childhood ambition, I spent 4 days last week traveling from Detroit to Duluth aboard an 800 foot lake boat. Viewing issues from one, often narrow, perspective, is one of the pitfalls of working on sustainability challenges. New approaches are often adamantly embraced without having considered the full spectrum of ramifications. The wisdom and experience of those caught in the potential transition can be overlooked. Aboard the ship, I was afforded an intimate, upstream perspective of the "extractive economy” upon which so much of our affluence fundamentally rests.
I suspect collusion. The paper napkins I’ve been receiving at several lunch establishments I frequent have gotten noticeably thinner. I blame my dry cleaners. They have directly benefitted from this backward trend, as my business with them has increased. With this, my pants are wearing out more quickly. So maybe those manufacturers are in this as well?
Growth Etudes 4: Hiring Uncertainty
I fought for my first job. I'd never before been in that kind of competitive position, wanting to do everything I could and knowing there was little I could do. Hiring is an imperfect process of risk reduction. Given the often intense, multidimensional nature of Foresight’s projects, and our relatively small team, identifying the right person is essential. As much as I might interview a candidate, check their references, and get to know them, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s nearly impossible to predetermine a good fit.
Growth Etudes 3: Finding Lucrative
The panoramic view captivates me. Easily distracted by all the city movements below this borrowed 40th floor conference room perch, I would get little done if I worked here. I don’t covet the digs, but I do the resources behind them. Sustainable innovation is often distanced from robust profit. Those of us who practice it constantly have to bridge the gap, make the connection to the economic, demonstrate that the social and environmental does ultimately translate into dollars.
Growth Etudes Part 2: Consonance and Dissonance
There have to be some edges. An effective consulting project, like a compelling musical performance, isn’t the result of pure harmony, but rather the navigation of the right creative tensions. Studying cello in my youth, I found the seeming glamour of the soloist’s perch the most appealing, but performing in small ensembles the most satisfying. Achieving any kind of significant sustainability-focused innovation requires a team. The work I produce at Foresight is made better by the input of my colleagues.