Lake Lessons 2
I’m still processing everything I observed last week from my four days traveling from Detroit to Duluth on the Honorable James L. Oberstar, an 800-foot lake freighter. Many of the lessons have reverberations for the kind of big issues Foresight strives to address through its work. Here are the first few.
Insights, inspiration and opportunities to create a more vibrant and resilient future.
Lake Lessons 2
On the evening of May 30, Illinois became the 37th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), first proposed in 1921, that would constitutionally outlaw discrimination on the basis of sex. The last major push to pass the ERA occurred in the 1970s, and while nationwide ratification may be mostly symbolic, it would exemplify how accumulated, dedicated efforts often drive large-scale change.
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.
Earlier this week, the Metropolitan Planning Council released Our Equitable Future, a set of recommendations for the Chicago region to address its systemic racial and socioeconomic inequities. As Foresight has seen firsthand in its work with Elevated Chicago, a partnership focused on equitable transit-oriented development, overcoming these historically-entrenched issues requires both structural and cultural shifts across local institutions.
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?
I’ve written previously about the recent privatization of space exploration, and companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin continue to capture headlines. However, publicly-funded, research-driven space exploration is still going strong, as NASA plans for the May 5 launch of InSight, a Mars mission that will measure the planet’s tectonic activity for the first time.
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.
Reporting from this week's Auto Show China, a new Wired article highlighted the “shockingly normal” design of BMW’s new electric SUV. Automakers’ increasingly ordinarily-looking electric vehicles seem to indicate that they are becoming a part of the mainstream, a promising sign for more widespread adoption.
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.