Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 15, 2010

Local, Simple, Varied, Connected

Filed under: Futures,Strategy — by Mark Chubb on September 15, 2010

Predicting the future is always risky. That is if you expect to get it right.

Thinking about the future and the varied forms it might take usually takes one of two forms. The first involves preparing for the alternatives. This approach emphasizes the uncertainties. The second involves deciding how to influence factors within our control. This approach focuses on the drivers of change. Successful strategists cannot afford to overlook or emphasize either approach or dimension of change over the other.

Recently, I was asked to prepare a forecast for the next 10 years. The objective was to identify key trends that would shape emergency services in the coming decade.

Before attempting to imagine what the future would look like, I had to ask myself, how has the past shaped where we are today? This is very different from looking to the past as evidence of how the future might unfold. Instead, it asks what story arcs present in our current narrative are likely to project themselves into the medium-term future.

If these arcs or trends represent recurrent themes in human history, it may be worthwhile to look to the past to see how they play themselves out over time. This is not the same as looking to the past as a predictor of the future, which is what most of us are inclined to do. Thinking about why things happened as they did is quite different from asking how they turned out and expecting them same to happen again.

Much of the concern about the future these days focuses on what the world will look like if trends like climate change, urbanization, globalization, and radicalization continue to play out the same way they have over the past decade. Concerns about resource scarcity, especially petroleum and water, only compound anxiety about alternative future scenarios and the instability the factors driving them seem to suggest.

Could it be though that enough of us have already recognized and begun responding to these factors in ways that alter our future trajectory for the better? How will we discern this, especially if some of the undesired things we fear come to pass? A positive view of the future may not be widely recognized or reported in the popular press, but it has gained currency in many quarters as evidence of small, dispersed and very committed efforts to remake life beyond the current Industrial Era have begun to emerge with increasing frequency, urgency and intensity.

Many enterprises in the public, private and non-profit sectors have adopted triple-bottom line methods to measure their performance. This approach asks organizations to consider their environmental and social performance alongside their fiscal results. Looking at these three factors to the exclusion of technological and political developments is somewhat intentional. This approach assumes that these developments are in large measure artefacts of the other three. As such, the rise of radicalism, globalization and so on are directly related to how people experience and express (respond to) these underlying conditions.

Looking at the future through this lens, if only to align it with the way many organizations and institutions are now assessing themselves, therefore seems appropriate. Looking at economic, environmental and social performance provides us with a prism through which we can shed light on the political and technological changes we might experience.

Alongside these variables, I see four larger trends, which we might consider drivers, that will influence how we experience effects in each of these areas: I refer to them as local, simple, varied and connected. You might see other drivers in play, but I consider these four for the value they offer in looking at how individuals relate to communities and how communities relate to one another.

In each instance, we have to admit the uncertainty of arriving at any single, definable end-point associated with any dimension or variable. Looking at the extremes gives us a chance to consider the full range of plausible scenarios for each.

In most instances, individuals and communities will prefer a value somewhere between the two extremes represented by each diagonally opposite pairing presented in the matrix above. To the extent that this is true, the challenges to shaping the future to arrive at such conclusions are many. Not the least of these is our tendency to look to the past for answers rather than looking for new options and consulting others.

When I look at this table for opportunities to leverage key strengths of emergency services that can shape the future for the better, I see many opportunities. Thinking about the strengths emergency services bring into this environment — adaptability, tolerance for ambiguity, commitment to service — I see opportunities to approach problems with greater creativity and collaboration.

What does this analysis suggest to you? For which alternative futures should we prepare? How do you view our capacity to shape the future?

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9 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 15, 2010 @ 12:43 am

Very interesting post. Of course events might end up skewing the results. So for my 10 years out here is my take.
1. The 40% management overhead in DHS moves closer to 50% as the so-called “tooth-to-tail” ration in DHS continues to deteriorate and more and more emphasis placed on “control” as opposed to “cooperation and collaboration”!
2. FEMA broken up as DHS takes over its White House interface and relations peerly out of the need for White House Face time for other DHS appointees.
3. STATE governments decide that they must set some standards and guidelines for local governments in the realm of emergency services as national as opposed to community standards start to develop. This normally would be driven by the tort regime but since most STATES retain their sovereign immunity with limited exceptions this driver will not be part of the trend. Courts will give emergency services personnel even greater discretionary protection.
4. The STATE and LOCAL role in Public Health Emergencies will be drastically modified by policy and events to increase the federal financial and technical dominance.
5. EPA emergency response will become part of DHS (or alternatively HHS)!
6. The White House will create the first ever domestic civil crisis management and response system and this will become an all-hazards response and mobiliztion system building on the revision of EO 12656.
7. The role of the National Guard will be enhanced by better staffing, funding, equipping, for operations other than war and this will directly impact the ARMY, NAVY, and Air Force.
8. Triggers for federal emergency service operations will be statutorily enacted by Congress, e.g. at GENERAL ALERT the FRERP or equivalent will operate immediately. Another example, the declarations under the STAFFORD ACT will include which ESF’s have been or will be triggered and each ESF will have an accountable federal, STATE, and local official collocated.
9. Training in emergency services, including first aid and other functions, will be a mandatory component for able bodied citizens collecting unemployment (and possibly even those disabled with some non-impairments that could assist in emergencies). This will be done as “resilience” becomes the new paradigm for civil domestic emergency services.
10. The Fire Service will take over Emergency Services sector and be forced to expand their roles in technological areas such as commuications interoperability. The USFA [United States Fire Adminstration] will become an independent agency within DHS with expansion to deal with cross-cutting EM technological issues throughout DHS and STATE and LOCAL government.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

September 15, 2010 @ 7:39 am

A bit darker but pulled from current headlines and tweaked a bit;

Europe begins decreasing already diminutive nation-state militaries. Entitlements and extended recession, dare I say depression reduces funding. In that the military corporation or enterprise becomes paper tiger and regionalism and special interest militias and uber community watch becomes the norm.

Corn genome corrupted by excessive gene manipulation, Monsanto suicide seed, and lack of genetic diversity. Entire corn enterprise self destructs and unable to “right itself” due to lack of starter seed, variety, and destruction of soil. Entire American food and feed industry unable to respond due to its size and reliance on one grain.

Coupled with corn issue is potential of Peak Oil phenomena. Inability to produce and export cheap crude completely changes logistic energy model of JIT and alters petrochemical fertilizer business. FedGov refuses to see forecast and maintains too big to fail mantra, thereby exacerbating unsustainable energy logistics platform.

Reduction in oil increases use of coal and natural gas for electricity production. Unfortunately, excessive fracking throughout the US contaminates and destroys aquifer system, rendering most water in the Nation non potable. Water rationing and importation of water becomes National Security issue. Canada becomes primary supplier.

China’s population stabilizes but their increasing need for protein and oil is compromised by water crisis in US and Peak Oil. US unable to meet first export demand for animal proteins than National demand as well. China, unable to maintain its import of beef, begins a more bellicose relationship with a weakening and yet more dangerous Russia. Russia’s population, reduced by low birth rates, tuberculosis and HIV is unable to sustain border security and China begins to expand North into previously sovereign Russian soil.

China rapidly increases its own poultry and swine production without requisite sanitation, creating perfect breeding ground and mutation opportunity for H5N1 to acquire genes necessary to transition from birds to humans very effectively.

China’s energy needs are stymied initially by Peak Oil, but Canada’s shale oil reserves are conquered with new science and an additional discovery under polar ice cap. Canada and China begin aggressive labor for energy deal and Canada becomes largest exporter of water and energy.

China’s ability to maintain energy import and human capital export requires it to increase mounting pressure on the United States to repay 30T in debt.

India and China compete for dimunition of potential energy sources creating growing hostilities between 2 nuclear States.

Microbe discovered in gulf that consumes petroleum is “accidently” introduced in to Saudi Oil System. Volume of oil enables mass reproduction of microbe, an organism with superbug resistance due to US excessive use of pesticides and genetic mutations of crops to be round up resistant. Oil in essence evaporating before our eyes and organism is unable to be curtailed, destroyed or stopped.

House of Saud sees day of reckoning fast approaching. Oppressed Saudi’s stage mass revolt, overthrowing house of Saud in name of Wahhabi Islam and further expedite their demise with destruction of remaining oil capability.

With all expendable income virtually gone in US, drug trade dries up, leaving drug lords with excessive product, weaponized organizations, and in need of support. Mexico slides into failed state status with massive exodus of people North. Mexican Drug Army invades South West and goes to war with Region over natural resources and food in order to sustain itself. US unable to respond effectively because of mission in Canada protecting water fields and large presence still in Afghanistan protecting rare metal and mineral mining project.

Woman reports to NY hospital with elevated temperature, hacking cough and difficulty breathing………………

All a bit of dark fantasy, but not out the realm of possibility considering the fragile state the world currently finds itself in.

Decentralize or die?

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 15, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

Interesting speculation DAN but all based on current events and trends IMO. Right on!

Comment by HISTORY DETECTIVE

September 15, 2010 @ 10:04 pm

At best more benches and less bars. At worst more toxicology and less Doxology. We’re highwaymen, if we don’t kill and rob them we take them to the caves and hold them for ransom. They can’t hold the kids for ransom and if nobody pays the ransom they can stay in those caves for a good long time. America won’t cave in to them and if the fish ain’t biting the planes are always airborne. It’s a life of danger and opportunity. Adults and kids. Anything you need kids. We got one fish and it was a whopper, no king tho.

Notes from a school of fish and park ranger. From another day on the Washington Trail.

Comment by Carbon Nano Tubes and Its Promise Vs Greed and Intolerance In the Dysfunctions of Mankind: War Looms Ahead

September 16, 2010 @ 6:31 am

Well Messrs. Dan O’Connor and History Detective…some imagination and perspective…keep it coming as these welcomed comments/contributions give us all who care do dearly for our beloved Republic, its Constitution, State Constitution and Bill of Rights.

With my being involved in global wastewater and water purification project development and as well, Carbon nano Tubes and the manufacture and sales/distribution thereof, I am struck by the fact that while nearly 1 billion souls have no access to a clean glass of water today and at the same time while such incredible teachnology is in our hands, written in scripture, mankind will go to War! How absurd!

As I see our wastewater and water purification efforts in Ghana, Rwanda, the Sudan, Jakarta, Manila, throughout the Middle East, Madagascar so many places making a difference in everyday Life and in paralle working with brilliance as scientists and researchers, engineers all engage the development and wide applications of Carbon Nano Tubes which will affect all people, yet I see rampant corruption, se;f-agenda, religious, political, economic and other creating more and more anguish, disparity and off to War again not even 100 years since such utter devastation and so many killed, bodies piled here and there, each an individual…We should all be ashamed and les anyone think that locally, nationally or otherwise they will be prepared for the “numbers” – the devastation which this next War will bring.

The only nation I see in my business ambitions globally with any chance of sustaining itself, China. No matter where I reach to in addressing wastewater and water purification projects or project investment monies required as our team ramps us this global business ambition in helping people secure a clean glass of water, China is present…..

For instance, building a railroad in China, with ships waiting at port to take iron ore and such precious commodities back to China and now having ample supplies fror the next forty years – materials it too will use to strengthen itsef from within as no other nation and dare anyone to challenge China…dare anyone to challenge China as it has been here far longer than most and while it has numerous issues about it, yet China will survive, will we in the Middle East, European neighborhoods, and even here on Main Street USA where we as Citizen Joe are being stripped of any monies from the King’s taxation schemes for each side of the Congressional aisle, “entrusted” to serve the public good, well, let the record show, We failed as dysfunctional greed and arrogance suffocated innovative and productive people who fled the King nearly four hundred years ago only to see Washington turn to the same charade and like all manmade governments since Babylon, all, no matter form, fail!

God Bless America!

(Chris)topher Tingus
chris.tingus@gmail.com

Comment by HISTORY DETECTIVE

September 17, 2010 @ 4:26 am

WASILLA, Alaska —
“The Wasilla Police Department is putting the brakes on a free tool officers were given to stop high-speed chases. The department’s new chief, Mike Hughes, has told officers to temporarily stop using mobile spikes, a device that deploys spike strips from their cruisers.”

The other car goes out of control near the car deploying the device. Easy to see why it’s free and they stopped using it. Mystery is why would you want this. It seemed like a good idea dept…Operate your brain.

Comment by HISTORY DETECTIVE

September 19, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” Jeremiah asks. I’d be pragmatic and flip the b to get a p, so next things always being next before you know it it is Palm Sunday again kids. With the other problem you call 911 and instead of the police you get the bolice and you can forget Palm Sunday because heaven ain’t in the deal. Instead of peer review, all you got for your effort was beer review and a summit for peace.

A bit of precog work this morning saves a lot of trouble down the road. Instead of eating a peach you are eating sand. Oh Sumbeach Sumwhere. You do the math. They’ll tell you the sand is healthy and wash it down with salt water.

Check with Peirce. http://www.peirce.org/writings/p27.html Or check with Beirce for the devils dictionary because it’s beyond merely stupid, we are full tilt now. Despots and lessons. God we aren’t that dumb. Peer review please.

Comment by HISTORY DETECTIVE

September 19, 2010 @ 6:36 pm

“I will now go so far as to say that we have no images even in actual perception. It will be sufficient to prove this in the case of vision; for if no picture is seen when we look at an object, it will not be claimed that hearing, touch, and the other senses, are superior to sight in this respect. That the picture is not painted on the nerves of the retina is absolutely certain, if, as physiologists inform us, these nerves are needlepoints pointing to the light and at distances considerably greater than the minimum visibile. The same thing is shown by our not being able to perceive that there is a large blind spot near the middle of the retina. If, then, we have a picture before us when we see, it is one constructed by the mind at the suggestion of previous sensations. Supposing these sensations to be signs, the understanding by reasoning from them could attain all the knowledge of outward things which we derive from sight, while the sensations are quite inadequate to forming an image or representation absolutely determinate. If we have such an image or picture, we must have in our minds a representation of a surface which is only a part of every surface we see, and we must see that each part, however small, has such and such a color. If we look from some distance at a speckled surface, it seems as if we did not see whether it were speckled or not; but if we have an image before us, it must appear to us either as speckled, or as not speckled. Again, the eye by education comes to distinguish minute differences of color; but if we see only absolutely determinate images, we must, no less before our eyes are trained than afterwards, see each color as particularly such and such a shade.” Peirce

Security means we can see beyond and stay above. Sats help, they don’t do the heavy lifting though. Thinking still counts and you are history. I have another case, so case closed and God Bless America.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

September 20, 2010 @ 4:10 am

HD, This Sunday we were both reading Jeremiah (many joined us) and Peirce (considerably smaller congregation). What each of these sources share with Mark Chubb’s post above is a concern for accurate perception. How do we organize and discipline our perceiving to recognize the reality right in front of us? How do we correct our pre-conceived orientations? How do we, as much as possible, allow our decisions and actions to accurately reflect and engage reality? “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”

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