Along with Grading & Excavation Contractor, we publish five infrastructure-related publications—MSW Management, Erosion Control, Water Efficiency, Stormwater, and Distributed Energy—for professional audiences, a situation that makes us acutely aware of the common denominators and barriers that exist between and among their focus areas. You may find it a stretch to believe that such disparate areas as water handling, transportation infrastructure, waste handling, and energy resource management have much in common, but I’d like to suggest that the factors affecting them at the deepest level are strikingly similar. The areas of command and control, once in the hands of predominantly local interests, have gravitated inexorably to higher and more remote levels of centralization, a situation ill-suited to the demands and changes taking place in our society. This trend is accelerating, removing the ability and incentives from the hands best suited to the tasks…yours and others on the front lines of infrastructure restoration and development.
Can we survive the severe disruption in any of our vital infrastructure systems? I guess it depends on what you mean by survive, but to me the answer is no. Because of our marvelous technologies, we have been able to distance ourselves from what for many others in the world are the realities of day-to-day existence, and in doing so we have constructed for ourselves in many respects a house of cards through which we run the danger of becoming not a second- or third-world country, but something far worse—a nation whose basic coping skills have atrophied through lack of use.
It would be nice if we had the academia-like luxury of sitting back and studying the problems to find the “best” solutions, but this is the real world, the challenges are real and enormous, and if we don’t so something now—right now—they are apt to overwhelm us.
What does this mean and, better still, what do we do? We need to let our Congressional representatives know in no uncertain terms that it is time for them to wage war on our infrastructural deficiencies. Today, not next week.