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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 7 August 2014

Noah's Infrastructure

Am I smiling?  Yes I am.  We've had such relative stability in Canada for so long that we've become complacent.  The each man for himself/Jedem das Seine message has appealed, because enough Canadians have not had to worry about basic things like food, shelter and security.  Instead, they had the luxury of focusing on things like earning and keeping more money to do whatever they wanted with it.

This is the frame that many governments, best embodied by the current crop of federal Conservatives have presented to us.  We'll keep the threats at bay and open doors - you guys earn, produce, sell, spend.  Tax has become a dirty word, as though politicians are sifting through the pockets of the nation strictly so as to line their own.

Of course this isn't true.  Taxes pay for public infrastructure and public services.  These are essential things in any community - you can't privatize everything, because who would pay for it?  Would one BIA pay to maintain the roads in its community, or the water pipes, or hydro lines?  Of course not, they'd demand that others who use that space chip in.  How about highways?  Should the people who ride it be the only ones that pay?  What about companies that ship goods?  They would invariably include the cost of transit infrastructure into the price of their goods.  It goes on and on.

While public consultation, planning, implementation and maintenance is far from a perfected science, it is necessary.  Yet public infrastructure has been neglected, both in terms of maintenance and in terms of upgrades.  Why?

In other words - infrastructure projects aren't the low-hanging fruit we're looking for (though they are the heroes we need right now).

Burlington floods.  Toronto floods.  Manitoba floods.  See a pattern emerging?

The scale has shifted, folks.  The signs are there, but far too many of us aren't seeing them; far too many of our decision-makers are opting to ignore them.  Those that are tasked with solving the problem are overwhelmed; there is no way for a tiny group of planners to weather the storm, if you'll pardon the pun.

And they are afraid to be crucified if they get it wrong.

So here we stand, folks - 

- We want things to stay static, or revert to how they were when the world was a different place.
- We want more for ourselves and are more resentful about sharing.
- Governments are telling us the only threats we need to worry about are foreign terrorists, fraudster immigrants and lazy and/or leftist Canadians.
- There's no money, we're told - though there's a ton of it, just not in the reach of the general public or being spent to the public's structural benefit.
- and the waters continue to rise.

I've written about all this before, of course, much as I wrote about the resurgence of mental health, the rise of government digital platforms, a shift in public engagement, etc.  It's kind of my thing.

I have also written about what we need to be doing to prepare for the severe weather ahead of us, starting with a massive culture change from "me first" to "go the distance together."

Emergency preparedness needs to be promoted and facilitated everywhere, from marginalized communities to Bay Street towers to the rural north and east and west.  Community action plans on what to do when severe weather crises hit need to be devised and supported, but those require engaged communities.  

Behavioural Economics tells us what we can do to nudge that kind of capacity building which, at the same time, can build more resilient, adaptable people and populations that will also be better positioned for economic success and civic engagement.  A bit of sociology-committing can ensure we have proper communication tools for emergency management coordination and hand-offs between citizens and public servants.

It's a challenge, to be sure.  It's not as selfishly sexy as most politicians would want, as it implies that we, not they are the answer.

But make no mistake, it is what's coming.  The time to start preparing for this storm of change is now.

Are you onboard?

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