Monday, November 2, 2009

Planning for a Lifetime

If you are planning for a year, sow rice; planning for a decade, plant trees; planning for a lifetime, educate people. Chinese Proverb

In recent years, I've developed the habit of asking if proverbs like this are completely accurate. Even though I can see the point being made, sometimes a deeper truth is hidden. This proverb is a good example. It suggests how to plan for various time scales, but I'd make one tiny change. I'd start the proverb with "when" instead of "if".

I believe in long range planning. The farther ahead you look, the better your results will be. I also believe in planning for other spans of time. An educated man will have no wood unless someone has planned for a decade. He will have no rice unless someone has planned for a year.

I look at environmental issues and conservation as part of a long term plan. If I can reduce electricity usage or save water, I save cash now and make resources last longer. At that level, being green is easy. But Thomas Friedman (Hot, Flat and Crowded was right to say when it comes to conservation it is more important to change our leaders than our light bulbs. We plant rice with light bulbs. Our leaders should be planting the trees.

For longer time spans, we need to educate ourselves. Right now, our leaders are pumping money into the economy, and one place they are doing it is energy improvement projects. A few years ago, the case for solar energy collection needed a lot of money up front and took a long time to break even. Today, technology has shortened the break even time and government incentives may reduce the up front costs. There aren't many ideas better than going green uwing someone else's money to create jobs for others. Do you plan for a year, a decade, and a lifetime? Isn't it time you should?

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