We live in a divided country.
In no time since World War II has America been so divided in terms of politics, morals and wealth inequality. It is this division, with no central unifying vision, or even a consensus media outlet, that is gridlocking us and initiating a perceptual decline. Political parties place their positions above the national good.
So, first a shout-out to Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key. In the days before President Donald Trump ended America’s participation in the Paris Climate Accord, Buchanan made a very public stand for the country to stay in as a participant of this historic agreement. As he said in his press release:
“Climate change is a serious issue, especially for a state like Florida that has two coastlines vulnerable to rising waters.”
“Protecting the environment and growing the economy are not mutually exclusive. We should be doing everything we can to accomplish both.”
Thank you, Vern (he did say “call me Vern”)!
Now this position is nothing new or radical. That said, during the past two decades the issue of climate change has been unnecessarily politicized. Loosely speaking, Democrats recognize climate change as a huge impending risk and Republicans don’t. For example, I have never met a “climate change denier” that wasn’t a Republican.
I had the honor of meeting with the congressman last February along with Susan and John Darovec, the representatives of the Climate Change Lobby for Sarasota. I mentioned to Vern that Florida is universally looked at as the state most at risk to climate change. The Darovecs showed him the latest study from Yale that 70 percent of Americans, Floridians and residents of this congressional district believe that climate change is real and that humans are part of the cause. Only 6 percent thought that climate change is a hoax.
Note to readers who still think climate change is a hoax: at least now you know you are 6 percent of the country, the state and this congressional district.
To have Buchanan, a Republican Congressman who also is the leader of the Florida congressional delegation, take the stand recognizing climate change as a significant issue for the state of Florida and, of course, for the Sarasota region is a big deal. He put his district and state ahead of the general thinking of his party. Twenty-two Republican senators actually requested that President Trump withdraw.
As many of the readers of this column know, I co-authored a book called “This Spaceship Earth” and co-founded a Sarasota based global nonprofit of the same name to face climate change. Earlier this year, I wrote a column “Climate Change is Physics Not Politics” — davidhoule.com/evolutionshift-blog/energy/2017/02/20/climate-change-physics-not-politics. If you can read this column at the Herald-Tribune website, you will be able to click on some internal links in this column.
I am using the stance taken by Buchanan to make a point. Regardless of our politics, we live in this wonderful city, and our future is common to us all. We all face the economic ramifications of climate change. Rain patterns for Sarasota have been changing significantly in the past decade. Sea-level rise will affect all of us in this area. Those with beachfront property will have the greatest loss, but our entire business community needs to plan long-term — 20 to 30 years out — as to what a post-beach economy might look like.
Some of us love the roundabouts in Sarasota. Some people don’t. Some people love the building cranes all over town as an indicator of growth. Many look at these same cranes and complain that the best days of Sarasota are behind us.
Many of us love the great cultural environment that Sarasota provides to retirees. A number of business people worry about and work on keeping and attracting talented young people. We all have causes and points of view. Often they put us at odds. We are moving into a time when our differences must be transcended by our commonalities. The business community must look five, 10 and 20 years out in a spirit of collaboration.
The great Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Attachment to views is the greatest impediment to the spiritual path.”
As a futurist, I often use this quote relative to looking into the future. If one is holding on to views, those views actually become filters through which we see the world and therefore the future. If one views the world as a dangerous place, then one will see danger. If one views business opportunity is bright in Sarasota, one will see and find that brightness.
On May 1 I wrote a column in this space titled “Disruption Ahead in the Next 20 Years” — heraldtribune.com/news/20170501/david-houle-futurist-disruption-ahead-in-next-20-years. We have entered a 20-year period that will potentially be as important a historical transit as the beginning of the Industrial Revolution or the Renaissance. Much of what we now think of as “reality” will completely change.
With this amount of change ahead, it is imperative that we start to let go of views that we think define us — as stated above they really limit us — and open ourselves up to thinking about not just the common good, but our collective future. All this change, shift and transformation IS going to happen. It would be a shame if we didn’t face it because we were busy towing the party line, the thinking of the group, or strongly held views that filter out the reality and truth of what is.
The future of Sarasota is ours to shape.
Sarasota resident David Houle is a globally recognized futurist. He has given speeches on six continents, written seven books and is futurist in residence at the Ringling College of Art and Design. His website is davidhoule.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.