About a year ago I had a luncheon conversation with a fellow who was moaning about the impact SUVs are having on climate and how terribly the local environment was being affected by unrestrained industrial growth and so on and so on. I tried tuning him out but the whinny tone got through my defences, and particularly so when it turned out that the real basis for his unhappiness was the lawn watering restrictions imposed by the City of Toronto.
Basically some yellowing grass had become, in his eyes, Want to know why your old job went to India, Japan or Taiwan? a world climatic and economic crisis which, of course, he then blamed wholly on Americans in general and George W. in particular.
I managed not to punch him out, or even respond directly - for which restraint I got to finish a decent, but not memorable, lunch and have a fair chance of never having to see the guy again.
The reality is completely the opposite of what he thinks it is. In reality Toronto gets an average of 32.4 inches of precipitation a year - a few inches less than Dallas and much more evenly spread throughout the year.
So what killed water availability in Toronto? and by extension the smokestack industrial base for the entire north-east? Nimbyism -the not in my backyard people; and I'll bet he was one of them, whining through the 70s just as he does today.
Forty years of Nimbyism: no to nuclear power, no to water management, no to any kind of significant new infrastructure, have brought us brown-outs, coal fired plants pushed well beyond their design limits, watering restrictions on that guy's lawn - and the nearly complete destruction of education based industrial competitive advantage throughout the north-east.
Want to know why your old job, or your father's, went to India, Japan, or Taiwan? Think about the effect Nimbyism has on freezing infrastructure in place, thereby forcing your input costs up while your competitors live and work in political jurisdictions encouraging industrial evolution to continue.
Nimbyism is a special case of what an Edmonton city councillor once called the nattering nabobs of negativism - a phenomenon we could characterise in action as local outbreaks of media led national mis-information. Hanoi Jane's China Syndrome movie, for example, is almost totally fact free, but virtually institutionalised the fear of nuclear power that's at the root of thirty years of increasing industrial devastation throughout Canada and the United States.
I got to thinking about all this while reading last week's discussions on Microsoft Vista versus Unix and comparing what the contributors here had to say with what's appearing in the PC press. Take a vote on progress and it's pretty clear that the nattering nabobs of negativism, or the "agins" as I like to think of them, have it. Look at what the people contributing to this blog say, however, and it's equally clear that the ideas and concerns needed to drive change are in place - and probably have been for a long time.
In IT the agins express themselves by forcing the incremental evolution of bad ideas simply because they were accepted by an earlier generation. Think of Microsoft's Vista as a kind of software equivelent to a 1950s coal powered generator plant and ask yourself the obvious but the tough questions: why aren't we all using Macs? How could Microsoft go from selling Xenix to MS-DOS and gain market share doing it? Here it is 2006 and a horrendously complex imitation of a simple 1990s interface laid on top of a 1970s OS is the big news from the world's most financially successful software company?
As in huh? How the star_blank_star did that happen? Well, part of the answer lies in a kind of second generation Nimbyism, the not on my desktop people. And the result?