TALK IS CHEAP

‘We are not OK. We are desperate.’

We talk,” quipped Reed Kroloff, dean of architecture at Tulane University, “about getting together to talk about the next time we are going to get together to talk about what we need to be talking about.”

“…People are killing themselves,” Tebo said this week in a Garden District coffee shop.

“All these meetings aren’t working. All these plans they talk about aren’t working.”
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Reading this article in the LA Times was incredibly sobering; here’s a city and people who are desperate and yet action is lacking. This does not bode well for the predicted peak oil or global warming scenario and lots of meetings and conferences have sprung up to tackle these looming crises. Talk is good and there is a time for it; however, if talk isn’t followed by action then we are on a road to nowhere.   

Meetings tend to give one a comforting feeling – perhaps too comforting? There’s a danger of havng too many meetings. We can be lulled into believing that we have actually done something to fix the problem since we went to a meeting about the problem.   The hard facts are that we as individuals are going to have take steps to change our lives.    One day, we are going to have journey past the comfortable zone of meetings, conference, round table discussions and into the uncharted territory of actions and those taking up this challenge for our future/survival – they are the true pioneers.

I remember walking from Bayou St John to the French Quarter down Canal Street (which was a mess, litter and junk everywhere). Many people were hanging around waiting for I don’t know what and in the midst of these loiterers, there was a one woman (not an outside contractor, day laborer or city worker) picking up trash, sweeping the sidewalk and gutter.   Amazed and encouraged by what we saw, someone said “now there’s someone doing something!.” She wasn’t’ hanging around, standing in line for a hand out, waiting for assistance or attending one of the many community meetings that are popping up – she’s was out cleaning up Canal Street.

The crisis in New Orleans is real life, not some woeful scenario from a book or video. One day, there could be a lot more New Orleans and we could be in their shoes.   When will we wake up and say ‘we are not OK. We are desperate’ , grab a broom, trash bag and get to work?

NOW WHAT?

The other night on the NBC evening news, it was reported that the 17th street levee was built to specifications after all.   Previous reports has said that the Army Corps of Engineers were to blame because sonar testing determined that the levees were not built to the mandatory height.

This latest report leaves residents, businesses and city officials all paralyzed. If there is no one to blame now, how can they rebuild if the entire system is defective?

To redo the entire levee system would cost taxpayers more than $32 billion.

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  1. Joshua says:

    I find meetings too often are useless not because meetings are inherently useless and “just talk”, but because no one tends to know what to do with a meeting so that you are actually doing anything. I’ve so often been sitting in meetings and I am just boiling to reach out and grab the meeting by it’s scrawny little neck and whip it into shape. Often I don’t out of courtesy to the organizer, knowing I would end up trampling over someone’s feet, especially since it seems more like a social gathering than a work group. But it can take everything I have to contain myself. Actually, that’s just it. Often it’s more of an informal social gathering centered around a particular common theme to vent or banter about. And it drives me crazy. There’s no plan for the meeting, or actions, or purpose for that matter. People just keep talking without any goal. Often, they’re just happy to vent and find others that share their concern. But NOTHING HAPPENS.

    Honestly, I think one of the biggest problems is that these organizers don’t know how to run a productive meeting, and don’t really have any particular goals or actions guiding them beforehand. And yet, they don’t even know it. And it doesn’t help that people often don’t really want to do anything, and mostly just want to gather, sit back, and either be entertained, comforted, or simply want to chat. But I wonder if it isn’t mostly this way because they end up driving the productive ones away who end up thinking this is all a waste of time.

  2. Anais says:

    Joshua

    You express the same feelings our family has. I agree you sometimes what to scream at these events. Everyone after always says “wasn’t this meeting just great” — and you are thinking man I could have been home and done some productive work!

    Unfortunately, we refuse to go to any more such meetings for discussion purposes only where people just talk, talk, talk, talk. Sometimes we have to just shut up and DO something.

    We joke and say, with the endless stream of meetings – perhaps the most action we can do is NOT to go to those meetings. It would be great if the meeting was canceled since everyone was too busy making a difference!

    I think you have a point there about the “productive ones” who are driven away.

    In truth, we aren’t even invited to such meetings (especially the local Post Carbon chapter) and I think now it’s because we would rock the boat and they may get themselves wet!

    I feel a sense of people ignoring us – like we don’t exists. I mean they know of us, but we are simply passed over. I don’t know how to put this feeling in words but I think you have brought to light the fact that perhaps they don’t want us there.

    For instance one local meeting was having to deal with urban sustainability. Of course, we weren’t invited (wonder why???) instead they invited “a certified permaculturist” who just recently planted their first garden.

    It’s a weird feeling we get being ignored this way. But like you said I think people are scared of people that are actually doing something – perhaps because it makes them look bad and nobody likes that feeling so I can’t blame them.