The Winds of Change

I've been amazed at how powerful a force status-quo can be. It is a phenomenon that exists in the environment of nature, and political and corporate environments as well. Consider the cicadas, which emerge from their sub-surface slumber every so many years. They do not all rise to the surface when one of them says it's time to go. It isn't until enough of them say it's time to go that they all decide that it is in fact time to go. When that happens, they all go.

So, what is happening here? One of them had the right idea, but the lot of them didn't start moving to the surface until enough of them said the same thing. What is that magic number? Who knows, but there is a tipping point, and when that happens, they all go along. The same could also be said of lemmings, even if that small group decides to walk over the edge of a cliff. If that doesn't describe corporate and political creatures, I don't know what does.

We have seen record high gas prices in the U.S. in recent years, in particular during 1998. At that time, the cries of the people were, "We need lower gas prices. The government must do something to lower gas prices." I was among a group of people (I assume I wasn't the only one) who felt that lower gas prices was not part of the solution, but part of the problem. I payed attention to the behaviors of people at that time. Many people were trading-in their SUVs for more gas efficient vehicles, taking public transportation, and boasting about how many miles they logged on their bicycles. Then, as could be expected, two things happened, people became collectively used to high gas prices, and then prices started going back down. Not surprisingly, I am not hearing about people trading in their SUVs any more.

That was a painful time for many people to be sure, and when one's livelihood depends on getting from point A to point B by any fossil-fuel based mode of transportation, that has to be a major problem. For the world, however, that time was not painful enough. We got used to it, and we got over it. We never reached the "cicada point" at which time enough people would say, "Enough is enough" and really do something about it. There are a lot of people who truly have changed their habits - those would be the cicadas who woke up first. Until it becomes clear that oil is not going to go down in price, last forever, or not damage the environment, the rest of the cicadas will not wake up.

There are some big things taking place today to try and change things. One example is T. Boone Pickens and his Pickens Plan. This is one of those things that is just so obviously a good idea, that I can't understand why this has not become a national priority. We have wind. Let's use it. Solar power and other renewable sources of energy should be explored and used, but right now, they're just cost-prohibitive for the most part. I once priced what it would take for me to go completely solar to the point where I was off the grid entirely. I calculated that it would take me more years to pay for the hardware than I have on my mortgage.

Even if cost did come down for renewable technologies, and it were available to everyone, people would still have to change their behavior, and, as I stated earlier, status-quo can be a very powerful force. One reason that any one of my neighbors mows his lawn, is because every-one of my neighbors mows his lawn. This is one area where government could help - by making it a national priority. Just think - we have put men on the moon. It was important for the nation to achieve this goal, and we did it - and the whole world cared. Let us not be so globally cynical that we convince ourselves that great things cannot be done.


  1. I agree that the Pickens Plan is one of the best, but The Almighty Status Quo is like this huge, immovable rock with seemingly infinite inertia. It will require political strength and courage beyond what most we now see exhibited in Washington to move it.

    WE, THE PEOPLE, must move it. Thanks for being on of those whose shoulder is against that rock, pushing hard.


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