February 27, 2006

The Future

At once I am trying to pull the notion of sustainability into the present and to shift attention to the deep future. So let me take a moment for the future.

The future is a theme that has turned up in any number of posts here before. And the future that I am referring to is not tomorrow or next year, but the future when your kid or your grandkid, or their kid is the age you are now. What are the NYT editorial page and the Economist leaders going to be writing about, what will Science and Nature be puzzling over? How will democracy be fairing? How many people will there be and how healthy will they be?

One of the most striking visual events in my life was my first view of the "New" Croton Dam. I was on an early date with a great woman and she guided me through Westchester County, down a rutted asphalt road and around a corner when suddenly there was an architecual wonder and planning miracle seemingly in the middle of nowhere. While the architecture is worthy of its own disucssion, it is the planning that stands out in this post.

The Croton Dam was part of a much larger project to provide water to New York City. Land for the New Croton Dam was being acquired in 1880 (the old Croton Dam was finished in 1842); the Sand Hogs are stillworking on the third of three main tunnels.

There was something about mid-19th century imaginations that allowed them to think about New York City without clean water or Central Park and then set out to avoid those futures. (The subway is a different story.)

We need that imagination and hubris now (and this is where the present meets the future). What is the infrastructure we need for such creativity?