Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

For Peat’s Sake: Reflections on Ch-ch-ch-changes

For Peats Sake LogoBy Marla J. Stelk, Policy Analyst, ASWM

Maybe it was the news of David Bowie’s death. Maybe it’s just a middle aged thing. But I have found myself reflecting on “change” over the past few weeks. As a young adult, I embraced the famous quote by Heraclitus, “There is nothing permanent except change.” And while that concept still holds true, it’s the rate – and more importantly, the kind of change – that weighs bowiemore heavily on my mind these days. Are we really changing at an accelerated rate or does it just seem that way? I often find myself thinking that change happened much more slowly in the earlier part of the 20th century. But when I think about it more deeply, I suppose during the earlier chapters of American history – after the Europeans began to settle in the United States – change seemed to happen very quickly. New inventions were constantly being introduced via the steam engine and then the development of fossil fuel powered engines.  Airplanes came next and then the rapid development of computer technology.  And I highly doubt that anyone born before 1900 ever believed we would ever walk on the moon.

wrightBut when I think about the time since then – from 1970 until today – it feels like change is happening at a rate faster than we can keep up with it. For example, a computer used to last you 5-10 years. Now you’re lucky if your computer lasts you 5 years maximum and software programs seem to change at least every other year. Innovation and invention used to provide new opportunity and room for new ideas and new ways to live in this world. Today, although we still have innovation and invention, more often it is “new and improved” – not something radically new and “outside the box.” Just look at Hollywood – new story lines are very rare. More often than not these days they produce a sequel or a remake of an old movie or TV show – not a whole new story. Or consider the cellular phone market. Every year it seems a new version of each phone model comes out and somehow none of the accessories ever work with the newer versions. Are we really creating change and innovation or just upgrading as a way to drive easy profits?

light21216As George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change.” But change does not necessarily imply progress. To truly progress, we must not merely change the appearance of things for personal gain, but we must fundamentally change our perspectives in order to come up with new, truly innovative ideas that can benefit society as a whole.  Science has always been at the forefront of true progress. At the Association of State Wetland Managers, we constantly challenge ourselves to stay fresh and pertinent and to help state wetland programs embrace new science, technologies, and information, and to think about new ways to approach wetland protection and restoration.

challengeMuch of the challenge in keeping up with and/or instigating change, innovation and progress has to do with the fact that those of us in the United States live in a political system which is very slow to change. Democracy takes time – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But democracy and innovation take even longer to proceed when there is political gridlock in the nation’s capital. When we get so deeply entrenched in our own perspectives, our political divisiveness prevents us from embracing many great opportunities to collaborate and create new and innovative solutions to meet our nation’s current challenges. So for Peat’s Sake, regardless of whoever ends up in the White House next year, my wish is that we can collectively work for more cooperation, collaboration and compromise in order to truly progress and to protect our nation’s wetlands for the benefit of all.

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