Dear 2015: A Letter to the Past
Who will you meet?
Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.
Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.
Dear people of 2015,
I can’t do real justice to any conversation about how your world of 2015 influenced my world of 2050. Just as you may have learned by looking back to 1980 from your vantage point, I have discovered that it was not the grand ‘megatrends’ that changed the paradigm, instead, it was the convergence of countless ‘micro-trends’ riding the magic carpet that you once called ‘the internet’.
In an effort to acquaint myself with your time, I referenced your period from my information source….our 2050 version of your ‘I-pads and tablets’. We don’t use devices like that anymore because we receive our communications and information through systems and technologies that you could not have imagined. The network is always there and I connect with it at will. I cannot image how life could possibly work without ‘the network’.
Through my study of your time, I have learned that you were faced with numerous challenges and uncertainties, an extended drought threatened water supplies in California and your scientists were warning of sea level rise. Wealth and class stratification were rapidly eroding opportunity and much of the infrastructure that supported establishment of the North American economy was descending into ruin.
In reading your media, I was amazed to learn that your national debate focused on non-essential ideological issues that should have been left to personal choice, while very little appeared on gun regulation, planning for a borderless multicultural economy or building an education system that could have prepared your children for new possibilities. I am amazed and thankful that you began to realize the need to change and did so before it was too late.
Advances in Technology continue:
I read that in 2015 you were testing driverless automobiles and debating the pros and cons of ‘ride sharing’. You would be pleased to learn that these ideas took root and changed the landscape of our cities by ending the tyranny of the automobile. Today there are a lot fewer personal cars. Electric driverless shuttles take us everywhere. Personal vehicles remain popular in the distant suburban areas, however; even there, driverless technology allows seniors to age in place because driverless vehicles provide safe mobility that was not possible in earlier times. Today, I can connect with the transportation system whenever I need it and the self-guided and remotely piloted vehicles are always available. The end of automobile dominance freed thousands of acres of valuable urban land that had been dedicated to “parking”. Old parking lots have been replaced with orchards, vineyards, gardens, plazas and apartments.
You will also be pleased to know that the wheel chair is gone. Robotics and exoskeleton technology liberated countless numbers of people by giving them independent mobility. Thank you for enthusiastically funding and supporting the development of this technology.
We continue to reap the benefits of your early commitment to the expansion of solar energy. This technology is now used to power desalinization plants that are providing fresh water using our vast ocean resources. Solar has allowed the dismantling of many dams and restoration of river eco systems. We are less dependent on the “oil shortage business” that bled so much wealth during your era. The air is cleaner and the rate of global warming has slowed because so much of our energy is coming from the sun.
We applaud your early commitment to the concepts of livability and sustainability, and your recognition of the need to design and build complete communities that accommodate people at all stages of life. We realize how difficult it was to achieve this, given the antiquated system of financing that consistently under produced housing. It took a great deal of determination and creatively to restructure the financing system to help build affordable, human scaled communities that serve multiple generations.
Just as you pondered the future in 2015, I ponder the future in 2050. I know that some conditions will continue to improve and others will continue to threaten our existence. Because we are so focused on determining where we are going, we often forget to acknowledge how far we have come. I hope that my descendants will make better decisions and continue the assent to a better human condition. Thank you for your struggle and contribution. I will do my best to “pay it forward”.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.
Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
The development of public, open-access middle mile infrastructure can expand internet networks closer to unserved and underserved communities while offering equal opportunity for ISPs to link cost effectively to last mile infrastructure. This strategy would connect more Americans to high-speed internet while also driving down prices by increasing competition among local ISPs.
In addition to potentially helping narrow the digital divide, middle mile infrastructure would also provide backup options for networks if one connection pathway fails, and it would help support regional economic development by connecting businesses.
One of the most visceral manifestations of the combined problems of urbanization and climate change are the enormous wildfires that engulf areas of the American West. Fire behavior itself is now changing. Over 120 years of well-intentioned fire suppression have created huge reserves of fuel which, when combined with warmer temperatures and drought-dried landscapes, create unstoppable fires that spread with extreme speed, jump fire-breaks, level entire towns, take lives and destroy hundreds of thousands of acres, even in landscapes that are conditioned to employ fire as part of their reproductive cycle.
ARISE-US recently held a very successful symposium, “Wildfire Risk Reduction – Connecting the Dots” for wildfire stakeholders – insurers, US Forest Service, engineers, fire awareness NGOs and others – to discuss the issues and their possible solutions. This article sets out some of the major points to emerge.
Whether deep freezes in Texas, wildfires in California, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, or any other calamity, our innovations today will build the reliable, resilient, equitable, and prosperous grid tomorrow. Innovation, in short, combines the dream of what’s possible with the pragmatism of what’s practical. That’s the big-idea, hard-reality approach that helped transform Texas into the world’s energy powerhouse — from oil and gas to zero-emissions wind, sun, and, soon, geothermal.
It’s time to make the production and consumption of energy faster, smarter, cleaner, more resilient, and more efficient. Business leaders, political leaders, the energy sector, and savvy citizens have the power to put investment and practices in place that support a robust energy innovation ecosystem. So, saddle up.