Regenerative Development and Public Policies

“You’re nothing but a damn coward,” the local police captain barked at me sitting in the bar. In stunned silence, I realized he was right.

The owner had decorated this small bar with a mixture of western artifacts and “early slum” furniture, and that late afternoon, I sat there sipping my beer anxiously awaiting a dreaded phone call. I did not know what else to do, but go over and over the problem and my involvement. My drinking companion the police captain, as was his custom, had dropped by for a beer on his way home from work. He knew me well enough to ask what was bothering me while a thousand miles away my friend lay dying from a blood clot in his brain. The emergency room doctors were treating him with blood thinners delaying the question of whether to perform surgery. How much time should we give the blood thinners to work their magic before slicing into my friend’s brain to remove the clot? I knew the surgeons would soon ask the family for a decision. The surgery was very high-risk, but with each passing second a part of my friend died. While his family waited at the hospital, I waited, too, wondering when I would receive the phone call asking for my opinion. There were two questions to wrest. Did I want to get involved? Should they do the surgery without delay? It had been a few hours since the ambulance had picked him up and I had been in steady contact with his family. I had no inside information, this was a family matter, and he could die. I expected holy wrath if I pushed for surgery and he died. But he was dying now. I was considering recusing myself from answering treatment questions . . . until the police captain spoke his simple truth.

Chances are if you are reading this blog, that you are morally responsible person blessed with above average ability.

In today’s world there are important political issues involving regenerative development that must be dealt with. You may want to duck the responsibility. You may want to avoid the personal blowback that getting publicly involved causes. But that is the path of the coward. However, after you chose involvement, you must be informed and avoid the path of opinioned ignorance.

Remember the methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) mandate from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency? To enhance urban air quality back in the 1990s, the EPA required oil companies add MTBE to gasoline. But the regulatory ignored the environmental principle that everything goes somewhere and so the carcinogenetic MTBE migrated from the air into our drinking water. Now MTBE is a water-quality issue and a forbidden gasoline additive. As advocates for regenerative development, we cannot make these mistakes.

Our effectiveness depends on our creditability and we dare not jeopardize it over carelessness. We cannot overreach. We must be honest with the public and truly careful with our words. Gross errors of judgement and arguable alarmist’s claims undermine the movement. Strong claims require strong evidence, and hype is no substitute for sound public policy.

Don’t get me started with “alternative facts.” As commonly noted, “you are entitled to your own opinion, just not your own facts.”

Frequently scientific models diverge widely depending on assumptions. People understand that no one cannot predict deterministically the outcome of single roll of dice, but accept financial analysts can reliably estimate the profitability of a casino. So, just because science cannot accurately predict daily weather does not mean science cannot reliably model basic climate change. I have faith that we can simplify science so the public majority can understand the vulgarities of reliability. Sadly, we have lost faith with the public in recent years because we constantly talked at them rather than talking with them. To improve public policy, we must do better with communications. We must simplify the explanations because the public rebels against scientific elitism. In terms the public can follow, we must share the evidence, the meaning of the evidence, the conclusions, and the limitations of the science.

We should not badger the public with science, but instead share it. After all science is pretty cool and we need widespread public support for effective regenerative development policies.

Six years ago, awesome surgeons removed a blood clot from my friend’s brain shortly after his family asked my opinion. Even with the limitations associated with losing one-third of his brain, his joy of life overwhelms me. He wrote me today with enthusiasm about the innovative transportation hyperloop system recently proposed for Denver. He has regenerated his life. I feel lucky to have such friends.

About the Author

Perry Wisinger, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Accounting and Finance
College of Business and Economics
Regis University

Faculty bio and contact

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