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Prescience: The Civil Environmental Society meets 21st Century Compression

Joe Starinchak, Outreach Coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently sent to me a copy of a decade old paper authored by George Meyer, the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Titled A Green Tier for Greater Environmental Protection, the work was focused on a new conceptual paradigm for government environmental regulation. It’s recommendations included:

  • Congress must protect the innovators
  • Build an information infrastructure
  • Create an EMS policy infrastructure
  • Establish a financial eco-metric system
  • Create places and processes for civil discourse

Mr. Meyer concluded:

States with pilot projects and innovation proposals should use each project and each proposal as an opportunity to bring people from different sectors together to talk about common issues and mutual opportunities…. The first uncomfortable ventures may not produce immediate success but are a necessary beginning for the civil environmental society which must exist for a successful and perhaps even survivable 21st century. The First Generation of environmental law has produced good environmental results but it also has produced an environmentally dysfunctional family in American, a problem that needs multi-sector attention in the Second Generation for the good of the nation.

An important principle going into the change process is to remember that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” No proposal and certainly no untested proposal, is perfect. But the proposal may be good and it may be better than the status quo. So it makes sense to see what is not happening or what is not happening well with the status quo. What’s its cost? If that calculation is done honestly and accurately, more often than not, it’s safe to speculate that reasonable people will conclude it makes sense to, “Just do it”, to take the chance at finding something better, a choice that has distinguished this nation since its founding. That is what the creators of Control Tier did a generation and a half ago. Looking back, a great deal was accomplished. I believe that innovators in our time will make the same claim a generation and a half from today.

As prescient as I believe this was (and still is), I am fascinated that the ideas in this paper jive with the kinds of things that Robert “Doc” Hall is talking about in thinking about business system change to meet 21st century challenges. Doc is a PhD and Professor Emeritus at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in Plainfield. He is a Founding Member of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence and is Editor-in-Chief of the Association’s publication, “Target”. From two radically different contexts, roughly 10 years apart, come similar observations and recommendations for creating new types of learning enterprises or networks for business and government.

And finally, from just a few months ago, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced a desire to elevate the Bureau of Environmental Assistance to an Office of Sustainable and Environmental Economic Development. According to a DNR representative, in a story by the “the goal, ultimately, is to transform the DNR from an organization that does Green Tier and innovation as, if you will, random acts of kindness, to one that has integrated and focused strategies for sustainability, not only for the environment, but for the economy.”

I hope to post both Mr. Meyer’s paper and some of Doc Hall’s thinking on the Sustainability Blackboard in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, I have posted a podcast featuring Doc on a new business system and culture leading to a more sustainable world.

Doc Hall podcast on \”Compression\”

And thanks to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism for the badger image and Dan Montgomery’s recent interview with Doc on BlogTalkRadio.

- Michael Collins


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