Hope is not a step in a strategic plan

Just behind the woods in back of my house is a long-abandoned railroad grade. The tracks are gone, and it’s part of the Rails-to-Trails system that extends for many miles. I often follow it on my walks and bike rides.

A few weeks ago, I was appalled to discover that many trees along the sides had been cut down and the path widened to more than twice its former size. My first thought was that a gas company had taken it over, so I called the head of the regional Rails-to-Trails to ask. She assured me that they were just re-grading the trail to solve some of the problems of seasonal flooding.

Shortly after that, my husband Andy and I noticed that our little pond was higher than it had ever been and our garden beds were surrounded by water. We attributed the overflow to all the heavy rain we’d had this fall. But on my walk one day I noticed that a large ditch had been dug perpendicular to the trail into our woods and a drainage culvert placed into it. I told Andy about it, and he went out to investigate.

The man who was operating all the heavy machinery turned off the motor to speak to Andy. “Well,” he said, “I was hoping nobody would complain about it.”

Now, at that particular time, I was working with the board of directors of Radical Joy for Hard Times to create a 3-year plan for our organization. Strategic thinking is not my forte, so I was devoting a lot of attention not just to the plan itself but to the philosophical and behavioral adjustments that have to go into making a plan that really works.

And I realized that this man’s thinking about his own project was flawed. He had made hope part of it.

Hope says, I can’t foresee how this thing I’m doing is going to affect others, so I’ll just do what I can and merge my desire that things work out as I want with the expectation that somebody else will make it happen. When you make a plan, you have to imagine its successful conclusion and take all the steps you can to assure that what you envision comes to pass. Also, before enacting your plan, you must consult with anyone whose participation is crucial to its success.

Andy explained to the guy that the culvert, which he had never consulted us about, was flooding our gardens. Eventually, somewhat grudgingly, he dug out the pipe.

Hope is not an item to include in your strategic plan.


My new book…

…is doing well, I’m happy to say. Here are a couple recent interviews.

Future Primitive (interviewer Joanna Harcourt-Smith was amazing)
Yale Climate Connections (short audio excerpt and discussion of the book)

If you’ve read my book, I’d love it if you were to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads!


What I’m reading

I’m indulging these recent days in a big, thick novel I first read about 20 years ago—Gail Godwin’s A Mother and Two Daughters. I’ve read all Godwin’s novels and reread a few. This one is my favorite. The characters stand out so uniquely, the writing is great, the story unfolds in a way that feel real and timely and plausible, there’s no sentimentality, and it’s full of surprises. Heartily recommended if you just want to forget the world and be swept away.

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