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green@work : Magazine : Between Blue & Yellow : Winter 2004

Between Blue and Yellow
A Sure Thing

by Katie Sosnowchik

Someone once told me that when circumstances are upsetting, the best way to assess the situation is to ask yourself, “Will this make a difference to my life 10 years from now.” If it does, then it’s probably worth worrying about. If not, then forget about it.

The soundness of this strategy is probably why “The Grandchildren Test” advocated by Cinergy’s CEO Jim Rogers resonates so strongly. This test asks whether decades from now, when today’s children and grandchildren look back at what Cinergy did as a company and the decisions it made, will they think the utility did the right thing?

“We want their answer to be yes,” Rogers says. “This test connects us to future generations, who will face the outcome of our choices and the actions we take today.”

This notion that we are stewards of our children’s and grandchildren’s future is certainly one of the basic tenets of the sustainability movement, and as such requires big-picture thinking and pragmatic decisions—two traits that have proven essential in order to get anything accomplished in the long-term on the really critical issues. Having never been a fan of the “all or nothing” notion, give me small, measured steps of progress any day over the one-in-a-million chance of winning big. Who among us wouldn’t rather face a challenging, yet achievable, task versus one that would require a miracle to pull off? Admit it: haven’t you ever added a task to your “to-do” list that you’ve already completed simply because being able to check it off provides a sense of satisfaction and the motivation to move on to one of the next dozen items that needed attention? No one enjoys failure; success is much more rewarding.

On the environmental agenda, you can’t find a much bigger issue than the one on global climate change. Though some still debate whether the science is real, many more have accepted that it’s there and are doing something about it—a trend that hopefully will make environmental problem-solving the number one growth industry of the 21st century, said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center for Global Climate Change, at this year’s EnvironDesign8 conference.

“Today we have a choice: we can fall over ourselves seeking short-term gains for our businesses and society, potentially at great expense to our future, or we can think ahead and invest in the strategies, processes and ideas that will help to insure that our businesses and our life as we know it are still around for 10, 20 or 50 years down the line,” she commented.

Cinergy’s Rogers agrees wholeheartedly, citing an urgent need for a national conversation about environmental and energy issues.

“Our country is unique in that we’ve never adopted a national environmental policy or a national energy policy where the people that create that policy look at the interplay between energy and the environment . . . As a country we can’t wait until the next crisis to deal with these things; we need to deal with them now so that we can have a sustainable future,” Rogers says. “We need to lead on environmental issues, not follow.”

Or, in the words of author Antoine de Saint Exupery, “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.”

As we have yet to develop a crystal ball that’s 100 percent accurate, my personal vote remains behind measured steps of improvement; those I know will make a positive difference 10 years down the road. The future is too important to risk on “what if’s.” I’ll take a sure thing every time.

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