Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day Nonsense

Corporations are beginning to move their headquarters from suburbs to inner cities.  That's where the most promising employees want to live, where they can get to work quickly without a car and walk to stores, entertainment, parks and other interesting places.  What a change from 20 years ago, when the suburbs were in!  Now we discover that people who live on the most interconnected streets travel 26% fewer vehicle miles than folks who live on cul de sacs.  People who live in suburbs are more obese than city folks because they drive everywhere.  ("Back to the City," in Mary 2010 Harvard Business Review.)

Here we are, way beyond the suburbs and despite everything we do for ourselves our ecological footprints may be heavier than if we lived in a city.  Someday I'd like to figure out whether or not this is true.  Every time I play in the orchestra or sing in a chorus, I drive 18 miles to town and back.  Perhaps I should get an electric scooter.  We burn gallons of gasoline to mow our 6-acre lawn, although I keep adding gardens to make it smaller.  The UPS truck stops by 3 or 4 times a week.  We don't want to give up our hot tub, but we keep forgetting to set its timer.  The chain saw that cuts our firewood uses gasoline.

The almost endless list of how I use oil dulls my aggravation with BP for its Gulf oil spill...until I remember that when President Obama announced opening the Virginia coast to "drill baby drill," the government and oil industry insisted it was safe.  Now, when a spill like this occurs and threatens the livelihood of the residents of five States, Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen says, "We're breaking new ground here. It's hard to write a plan for a catastrophic event that has no precedent, which is what this was" as he defends BP against not writing a response for "what could never be in a plan, what you couldn't anticipate." So you see, now they sing a different tune, saying it's unavoidable.  It's unsafe after all.

Government, we want to count on you to ensure a balance between special interests, including an industry that wants one way and whoever (e.g., environmentalists, consumer protection advocates, etc.) want another way.  Instead, you end up sharing the same bucket seat.  Goldman Sachs, forgive our skepticism when you trot fancy suits into Washington 18 months after we saved you from bankruptcy.

Why do I read Harvard Business Review?  In case a headhunter calls, as they do once in a long while, to offer me a dream job in Detroit or Harlem (next to Bill Clinton's office) in some big corporate headquarters on some street close to classy condos and concert halls.  It's been years since I interviewed for a job.  Now might be fun.

Then I could come home, laugh as I tell Karen all about it, and pull some weeds.

"You wouldn't waste time like that, would you?" says Virginia.

"What do you mean?" I say.

"I mean, certainly you have something better to do with your time than interview?" she says.

"Yep," I say.  "I've got corn and beans to plant.  It's time for the summer garden.  By the way, you should see the weeds that came up in the peas overnight. I guess I'd better pull them."
"Ah, Mr. Businessman," says Virginia.  "Better be careful who you criticize.  They helped make your way of life possible."

1 comment:

  1. Yes James, you have lots of time on your hands to be able to take pictures of your books in your garden. This entry made me laugh till tears came to my eyes.