Monday, November 05, 2012

Scenario Sandy

Do you ever find that audiences react to long-term scenarios with either disbelief or total resignation that they can do nothing about it? Maybe super-storm Sandy will at least act as a case-study and show people how disruption to things we take for granted can have far-reaching consequences.

New Yorkers have found that once the power goes off they can only stay in touch with the world for only as long as their mobile batteries work. That if they live on the 29th floor there’s no water because the pumps won’t work. That unless they have a gas hob there’s no hot water and no hot food. No way of washing and no way of escape except down multiple flights of stairs. Once at ground level there’s no petrol, either because the tankers can’t get through or because there’s no electricity to pump it. At the moment all seems to be calm, but if frustration spills over into civil unrest in the next 24 hours that’s cooked Obama’s presidential goose!

Isn’t it tempting to say “NOW do you believe me?” Unfortunately until people experience this sort of thing first hand many remain in denial. Even when we persuade them that unexpected things happen it’s difficult to make them realise that while they can’t stop these events they can usually take sensible precautions to mitigate the effects. Of course there doesn’t seem to be much of a lead from the top. I know we now have record stocks of salt around the country - (just as well – it was snowing the south yesterday) -  but if the power goes off there doesn’t seem to be any plan to cope with darkened traffic lights, closed supermarkets or silent petrol stations. Or maybe the plans are there but the government’s keeping them secret. If so, I hope they are better than the ones they had at the time of the 2000 fuel strike! If not – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Last time I made a presentation one of my delegates said, “You know, whenever I hear you talk I just want to go away and slit my wrists.”  It shouldn’t be like that. How do we get people to take a positive and pragmatic view of the future?

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