The city, the future, you and butterflies

August 28th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Cities | Comments Off

This year Canadian futurist and writer Dennis Walsh and I began a conversation about a book on the future of cities. As the conversation continued the concept moved toward a discussion of cities but more so of the personal choices we face if we are to make cities and by extension the planet a sustainable place to live. These choices loom large for young people as they shape their own lives, and, we hope, save the future. Now we are writing, and have decided to release the first draft of the book as a blog serial. This is part 2 of Chapter 1. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We have two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form.

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CHAPTER ONE – Part 2
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Cities will shape the future. But with the anticipated growth of cities, they are at a crossroad. Become great, or deteriorate. Cities at a crossroad is an interesting concept. Interesting in that cities have choices to make on the way to a great future. You too have choices to make and where you will live is one of them.

You may have already decided that for now. Then again, you may not have thought that through. The choices you make now will profoundly affect your future. Every choice you make, no matter how small, is a chance for you to shine because you can make a difference.

Have you heard about the “butterfly effect”? Some people believe that a butterfly flapping its wings could cause a tornado somewhere else in the world. It is complicated. Not only is it possible for the weather to be affected, but even animals could feel the effects because of complex predator-prey dynamics that make them prone to a “boom” and “bust” environment. It is like this. Natural biological systems are a tangled mix of “order” and “chaos”. A better way to look at it is to compare the butterfly effect to the “ripple effect” – drop a pebble into a pond and the little circles move outward to affect the rest of the water.

You can make a difference. At every stage the choices you make in life will have a butterfly effect. Every time you make the right choice, you lead by example pointing to a better direction. Doing good things will make more good happen. But it works both ways. Ripples and butterflies are not inherently evil but they can both make nasty things happen. Thoughtless, careless actions can cause a ripple that creates bad experiences for others.

Nearly fifty years ago, people just like you were faced with choices. Society was broken and needed fixing. University students were the wild card that had a butterfly effect on our nation. They began questioning rampant materialism. They wanted personal revelation. University students dropped pebbles in ponds of thought, and started a social revolution. It was by no means all of them, but enough of them to matter. You have the same power that they had then. The numbers are on your side. The future is worth fighting for. If you care enough to “do the right thing” you can literally change history. If not, why should you have any reason to think that the future will be any different than it is right now?

We are at a turning point. The boom times as we knew them are not coming back. A sci-fi future is unlikely unless someone can come up with trillions of new disposable dollars – or unless we get creative and bold, fast. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually imagine roadways in the sky and living in a sustainable natural world? We must make choices. You must make choices to save the planet and thus yourself. It is up to you to think differently. Make decisions differently. Why? Revolution lies ahead, a revolution in thought, a cultural and social revolution

Your high-octane generation may be our best hope for a bright future. But for the first time ever, there is now more student debt than credit card debt in America. The average college student today is $24,000 in debt. You were not made for that. You were designed to win. The cells of your body, your brain, your muscles, the consciousness of your soul, the interactions you have with others – were designed for you to win. You were built to succeed. And you know it. But if you are looking for insight to some tough questions, and new ways of thinking, this book will help you to become the winner you were designed to be.

You will change the world more than the world will change you. By sheer weight of numbers – let alone the laws of economics – your generation will have a big say in how companies, workplaces, organizations work. Big corporations cannot afford to be left behind. They are already on shaky ground. Startups are dominating the workforce for the youth demographic in today’s economy. If large corporations want to remain competitive, they need you and they need new ways of thinking. The best organizations will embrace that.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]