Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sunday Morning Musings

As I ran around White Rock Lake this morning, evidence of yesterday's rainfall appeared everywhere. The spillway, normally just a trickle, roared, as the overflow poured into the creek system below. Fishing birds and humans fought for the best spots to take advantage of the boiling water and the disturbed fish just below the surface.

It occurred to me, as I observed the lake, that we are all very much connected.

Exhibit A: trash that literally covered the surface of the placid lake.

That's correct.


Here's how the flood control system works in Dallas. A bag of trash or a paper cup or a bottle tossed out carelessly into the street or thrown into a sanitary sewer inlet gets washed away, or better, moved downstream when it rains.

Often I hear people, who don't understand the interconnected ecosphere of the lake and the city, blame the lake users for trash that ends up in the water. The fact is the problem begins far away from the lake, out in the suburbs. With every heavy rainfall the trash from above the lake gets washed into the water where it drifts into the shoreline. The parks and recreation folks, along with loyal volunteers, clean it up again and again.

We are all very much connected in this city. Much more than we even realize.

I am sure there are lessons here. Maybe you can think on this image and come up with some useful ideas.

Speaking of "upstream" thinking. I am wondering what two or three ideas, that could inform the development of better public policy, might have the most positive affect on the urban poor in the United States?

My ideas may seem to be a real reach in terms of their direct connection to my main concern. But, I don't think so. Long term solutions call for broader thinking that will work change in the systemic reality that keeps poor people poor.

Try these notions.

Idea 1: Our nation should develop, as quickly as possible, strategies that would free us from dependence on foreign sources of energy. Alternative fuels, more efficient means of transportation and reduced consumption of energy in general are all attainable goals. The connection to bettering the lives of the urban poor isn't hard to discover. Such efforts would generate new jobs, improve our failing environment (reducing the impact of a number of urban health challenges) and save funds now directed to an extremely costly foreign conflict. At the same time, such movement would further spur the developing network of public transportation that offers access to better employment opportunities outside the city's core.

Idea 2: We need to accept "outsourcing" as a permanent fact of life in our economy. What we cannot continue to do is to remain paralyzed in the face of this worldwide reality. Funds need to be redirected in a serious and strategic manner to take advantage of the great resting capacity of the largely idle or underutilized urban workforce. One thing my experience in the city has taught me is that people want to work. There is an opportunity for American corporations to take advantage of this growing, urban workforce and to develop new "insourcing" strategies. Companies currently housed in exurban and suburban areas need to consider expansion through satelittle workforce locations or "labor pods" to take advantage of the available workforce resources.

Idea 3: Our nation needs to radically beef up its diplomatic corps. The United States needs to reestablish itself as a nation of compassion and fairness. We need to become known as the nation that will talk, negotiate and work hard to hammer out settlements to the various conflicts without violence. Our slumping foreign aid budget and our current foreign policy should be re-vamped. The savings would be enormous. The growth in international stature invaluable. With what could be saved and gained, life for our own poor would improve dramatically. A nation concerned, really concerned for its neighbors around the world, is also a nation committed to seeing life improve for all of its citizens.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States.

On this special day for remembering all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country, we should also reflect on the current war in Iraq. Lives are being offered up on a daily basis. Lives of our soldiers and civilians. Lives of the Iraqi people. The conflict seems to be a senseless engagement in light of all that we know about our world--terror, radical fundamentalism of all brands (including Christian), hunger, disease, natural disaster, and poverty.

I remember my own college days. The Veit Nam War dragged on to its frustrating end. I recall the heated and important debates about that conflict and whether or not it met any of the standards of "just war."

Today the church is largely silent on the current conflict. I find that strange and very disappointing.

I went to church this morning.

I prayed for peace.


Paul said...

I think the big "why" behind the fact that wise, forward looking decisions are increasingly scarce in America's political life, is the domination of that life by large corporations.

And I’d like to call attention to something as close to the root cause of the increasing control of “our” government by corporate America as I’ve been able to find: the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision, which equates unlimited spending on behalf of political candidates with “free speech”. Money has been talking with a megaphone ever since. It’s why, for example, we have a health insurance industry that excludes millions, and overrules the decisions of patients’ doctors every day.

The National Voting Rights Institute in Boston, MA is at the forefront of trying to remedy Buckley v. Valeo, as well as other issues social and political injustice. (I have no connection with them.)

Charles said...

I wanted to point out one perspective indicated by the phrasing of your political points. You mention the nation needs to be free of foreign energy sources, and that we need to accept "outsourcing". Both of these apply an us vs. them to the nations involved. The world needs renewable energy that doesn't abuse the resources we're stewarding or create skewed economies that foster tyranny. And I've never understood why an American taking a job from a foreigner is a good thing, but when someone in a country with a much lower standard of living gets a chance to improve, it's bad.

I suppose the government exists for the protection and promotion of its own citizens, but we benefit far more from policies that really try to lift all boats with the tide, whether it's increased opportunities for our citizens or giving other people something to do with their time besides hate us.