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

The city, the future, you and butterflies

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 and on 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.

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.

[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of, and curator of Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through]

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August 27th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Cities, Environment & Energy, Innovation | 7 Comments

The city, the future, and you

When we look to the future in the rest of this century among the trends that seem likely to be sustained are these two: people are moving to cities, and cities are the engines of economic prosperity. These two trends put increasing pressure on cities to become sustainable in every way – environmentally, economically, and as a human habitat. 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. Today we launch the first blog, chapter 1 part 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 and on Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

Right now we are debating about 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.

by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

Is “making do” the best we can expect in our future? Is the future simply making the best of a bad situation? Will the way forward be reduced to finding a way out?

Caught in a gridlock of ideas, unable to turn back the clock and loathe to go forward, we stand at a crossroads between what is and what may still come. The boom times of the 20th Century and even the early 21st Century are over and the fantastic sci-fi future of our dreams is unlikely unless some one can come up with trillions of new disposable dollars.

What is at risk? Our theory in this book is that American cities and the people who may live in them are at a cross-roads of what could be life and death conflict over what the future city will look like. And there are questions of consequence.

Will society continue to emphasize exclusion or embrace inclusion? Will we pursue the positive and affirmative issues that unite us, or will we hang on to the fear and hate-based issues that divide us? Will we be a society in which corporations serve the interests of the people and local communities, rather than people serving and being subservient to their interests? Will we ever rise above the dead-end politics of us vs. them, and learn to embrace the politics of creating a greater us? Will the economic system carry on catering to the rich? Or will we come to respect environmental realities and honor the rights and welfare of ordinary people?

This book recognizes that a society, economy or country is neither great nor successful simply because it amasses the most wealth conceivable. The evidence is growing. No matter how high the GDP, a system that serves the interests of a scarce few at the expense of the many is a failure. A society that exploits unborn generations and the natural world on behalf of the 1%, is profoundly immoral. The future – if we are to have one worth living – belongs to you, the younger generation. The tide of history is changing. It is time to get ready; time to make choices. The most critical of these choices include, “how am I going to spend the rest of my life”, “where will I live”, “which career will I chose at this moment.”

Chances are you have already thought some or most of this through. You may have already processed much of the information we will discuss in this book. You have identified some of the problems. And that is good. But we will take you deeper, much deeper than you have gone before.

Some cities are considering whether or not to change course. For some it is too late. But the future is not all doom and gloom. There is hope. There are some obvious solutions for those cities willing to adapt and compete for people and for jobs. The new competitiveness that will take us into the future means that cities must learn to be great. That kind of greatness will take resilience and sustainability. It will mean being different, very different; distinctive in fact. To be distinctive, cities will become innovative and super connected. And that is where you come in. It is your time to shine. You are the wildcard.

To be truly great cities will need money and talent. Talent acquisition leads to investment that creates jobs. Companies locate where the talent is. It all comes around full circle. More people and jobs create wealthy cities. No wonder cities are trying to make themselves attractive to you, highly talented and skilled youth – a generation that does not buy into the status quo.

The system is failing (some might say has failed). You know it, and you have no interest in propping it up. Your future is a different world. The cities in which you will work and play “get it”; these cities will be cool. And those cities could be anywhere in the world. The cities that “get it” have already begun the cultural and economic changes that will redefine them in the competitive new world to come.

Your assignment – should you choose to take it – is to read this book and use it as a guide to help chart your future. This book will give you a better understanding of what the future holds; the cities (and careers) to avoid and which ones to explore so that you too can shine. Whether you are a college or university student, a 20-something just entering the workforce, or a young leader on your way up, we hope to tell you what we’ve learned through experiences that leave us dreaming of a better future that the one we are facing, and that lead us to hope that you do better. We believe that you will.

[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of, and curator of Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through]

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August 6th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Science & Tech, Space | Comments Off

What Mars Means to Earth

I am a fan of Mars. I think people will live there one day. Really. So I was quite excited to watch the NASA/JPL live feed last night of the landing of Curiosity, the largest craft ever soft landed on another planet, and to share vicariously in the moment. Watch it here.

Then today my friend and colleague Mark Anderson, of Strategic News Service (I serve on the advisory board for his annual conference, Future in Review), published the following Special Alert about the landing. In Mark’s classic and hard-hitting way he tackles what the accomplishment should mean for science, and politics.

Here is Mark Anderson…
To All SNS Members:

Many of you have already written in asking for permission to re-distribute this piece. Please feel free to distribute to as many people and publications as you wish, with the caveat that it be complete, and have attribution. I hope it does good in larger circles – and thank you for your willingness to do so. – mra.


To Our Members:

As you are no doubt aware, at 1:38 a.m. this morning, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech succeeded in landing a one-ton rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars. This effort required years of scientific, technical and engineering preparation, resulting in a novel multi-stage process for getting heavy equipment onto the red planet, rife with steps which, if any failed, would likely cause mission failure.

The landing occurred without a single problem, including minutes during the critical last phases of the flight when the spacecraft was out of communications with Earth and ran autonomously.

While this effort will no doubt have a great impact in improving our knowledge of the Mars geology and surface, including habitability for future human missions, and perhaps information on past life in the targeted crater, there is a deeper meaning to this effort:

Science is reality.

At a time when a large and increasing fraction of the U.S. population does not “believe in” science (i.e., objectively provable reality) – or, worse, has bought into the idea that science is just one choice on the reality menu – NASA has again given concrete reason to understand that science works, and that science is not an option, not a theory, not a menu item, but instead represents the finest efforts of human minds in understanding, and addressing, objective reality.

Those on Earth who currently think that science is a political football should take note: not only are you endangering your own reputation, you are endangering the welfare of your constituents, and today, of the planet itself.

Any person or party which mocks science should be considered for what he or it is: a threat to the welfare and future of us all. Under the influence of political propagandists, misled religious zealots, and truly dangerous television and radio empires (such as Fox (Not) News and Rush Limbaugh), too many people today have been led to believe that science is in some way an option to opinion.

Science is as optional as gravity. Ignorance is the only real option.

It is time for the U.S. to catch back up to the world in this matter, and recognize the value of scientific study and theory, the use of scientific consensus in guiding public policy, and the wonders that we can achieve when we abandon self-aggrandizing political fantasy in favor of objective scientific knowledge.

We should use this marvelous achievement to create a new cultural change in the United States, returning us to the group intelligence of past eras, when no one doubted that an experiment, done with the same result several times, demonstrated an objective truth. Not an opinion, not a religious position, not a political chip, but another addition to human scientific knowledge.

The world owes much to the people of NASA, of JPL, and to the taxpayers of the U.S., who have achieved the most important step in space exploration yet attempted. This was done by a willing and informed government, working with private contractors, paid for with taxes. It stands as one of the greatest of tributes to human intelligence yet achieved, shoulder to shoulder with decoding the human genome.

I highly recommend that you take a moment to watch the scene inside JPL headquarters in Pasadena, as Curiosity makes its way safely to the Martian surface. We owe a great deal to those pictured in their moment of triumph, and citizens of the U.S. owe it to themselves, if they wish to remain a great nation, to put a rapid end to the rise of ignorance in their country which threatens scientific endeavor, and the acceptance of scientific findings.

Our thanks go out to all of the people who, using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, just flew a car-sized laboratory across the solar system, landed it safely at the end of four lines under a crane under a rocket under a parachute, to bring us yet more scientific knowledge about the world.

It is time for all Earth inhabitants to recognize the value of science. In doing so, we will find common ground for agreeing on other important things.

Here is the video

Long live Science.


Mark Anderson
CEO, Strategic News Service

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August 3rd, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | Comments Off

Entrepreneurs creating fewer jobs

Here in the U.S. it is an article of faith that the economy is driven by entrepreneurs – job creators in the current political parlance. And there is no question that the U.S. maintains an entrepreneurial culture.

But, something is happening that may represent an emergent trend. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics illustrates that the years 1993 to 2001 were peak years in the creation of new companies. It is not surprising that new company “births” fell off after the dot com bust in 2000, increased a bit in 2004-2006, the peak of the debt bubble, and then fell off a cliff with the arrival of the recession in 2007. The fall off in new company formations is the steepest in the history of this data series. At the same time, company deaths kept climbing.

But that is not the emergent trend that I see. Deeper in the BLS report is news that new companies are not hiring as many people. This may reflect only the lack of demand in the current economy. But I suspect something more is going on. The kinds of new companies being created now in the information space simply require fewer people to accomplish the same amount of work as a few years ago. Many other enterprises, like event management, are not info tech businesses directly but still rely heavily on information jobs. They too can accomplish more with fewer people.

I wonder if we we’ll ever see an info tech company again that grows as large as a Microsoft in number of employees?

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August 1st, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy | 2 Comments

Drove my Chevy to the levy and pushed it in – the future of cars

Beware the permanent trend.

What would happen if a generation stopped driving cars, or at least stopped dreaming that owning a car and driving everywhere was their defining passage into adulthood? What if each year auto ownership and miles driven declined? It would be the end of a seemingly permanent trend toward ever more miles driven and greater car ownership.

I first began seeing signs of this emerging trend (or better, trend reversal) in 2010, as I was producing a study for the state of Idaho on the 30-year future of transportation and economic development in Idaho. In that study I noted the following, based on a 2010 article in Advertising Age:

The Millennial generation…is not only very large – larger than the Baby Boom generation – but different in an important way. They are first computer and Internet generations, having grown up since infancy with computers, 24/7 network access, cell phones, blue-tooth enabled cars, and so on. They approach most life activities differently, that is, they approach them using the network first.

One critical example for the future is recent research showing, for the first time since the advent of the automobile, a youth generation less likely to own a car, drive a car, or have a drivers license than the previous generation. As reported in Advertising Age,

“In 1978, nearly half of 16-year-olds and three-quarters of 17-year-olds in the U.S. had their driver’s licenses, according to Department of Transportation data. By 2008, the most recent year data was available, only 31% of 16-year-olds and 49% of 17-year-olds had licenses, with the decline accelerating rapidly since 1998. Of course, many states have raised the minimum age for driver’s licenses or tightened restrictions; still, the downward trend holds true for 18- and 19-year-olds as well and those in their 20s.

It’s not just new drivers driving less. The share of automobile miles driven by people aged 21 to 30 in the U.S. fell to 13.7% in 2009 from 18.3% in 2001 and 20.8% in 1995, according to data from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Household Travel Survey released earlier this year.” (Advertising Age, ( May 31, 2010)

This dramatic decline in driving behavior by young people occurred in a period when the percentage of the national population aged 21-30 actually increased slightly. The explanation goes well beyond restrictions on driving for 16-18 year olds, into a shift in values and behavior. Interest in cars has waned. They have become more expensive. Interest in digital communications has sky-rocketed. Digital communication has become less expensive. Young people in 2010, and adults in 2030 may find it far easier to text, to do computer-based work, and generally to stay connected while using public transportation rather than when driving a car. Even as legislatures around the nation ramp up bans on digital communication while driving, the desire to conduct work while commuting will continue to increase. All of these factors, combined with technology advances themselves, may make driving behavior in 2030 not at all like behavior prior to 2010.

Now comes more recent evidence supporting this trend. In a piece entitled “Goodbye James Dean,” Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, observes that Americans drove a billion fewer miles in April 2012 than they did in 2011, despite a somewhat better economy. Moreover, in a reversal of a six-decade trend to ever-increasing miles driven, Americans were already driving 6 percent less in 2011 than they were in 2004. Baxandall noted,

…the decline is particularly strong among young people. Americans between 16 to 34 years of age drove a whopping 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than in 2001. These same youth increased their bicycle riding by 24 percent and increased their miles on public transit by 40 percent.

In addition to driving fewer miles, young people are leading the way to a declining percentage with driver’s licenses. The decline has been especially dramatic for men ages 20 to 34, falling from nearly 95 percent with a license to under 80 percent with a license, depending on the age cohort.

How much of this due to unemployment making it too difficult to own a car, versus the trend representing a true values shift, we will have to wait and see following a more robust economic recovery. But the love affair with cars may be wearing out as people opt for a less car-dependent life style. So concerned with a possible shift in consumer behavior are Ford and GM that they have both initiated research and marketing efforts aimed even more specifically at Millennials.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist, author, speaker, consultant, Founder of, and founder and Curator of To arrange for a speech, workshop or consultation contact

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