by dan bertolet
What would happen if someone wanted to build a Space Needle in Seattle today?
Today, a proposal with the audacity of the Space Needle would incite an citywide naysayer orgy.It will compete with views of the mountains! It’s a waste of money! It’s out of character with the neighborhood! Where’s the affordable housing? Not unless they also pay for a 3000 stall parking garage! It’s just plain silly and we need to get serious!
Our collective character has changed over the past half century. And my take on it is that the critical element is confidence. In the early 1960s, we had gobs of it. But since then, a series of setbacks from Vietnam to the recent banking implosions have steadily drained it. And that unconfident state of mind, perhaps more than any other factor, is the biggest threat to the success of our efforts to tackle the challenges of the future and create a world in which humanity’s journey continues to expand and thrive.
Curing a lack of confidence is a quandary, because the kind of dramatic successes that inspire confidence require bold action and risk taking, precisely the type of behavior that a lack of confidence inhibits. But the first step is to at least recognize this dynamic.
As an example, consider the recently proposed idea to run agondola from Capitol Hill to Seattle Center.While there were some who loved the idea (e.g. me), most of the responses I heard orreadwere not too far off from some of the objections I facetiously suggested above. It seems the serious people—the grown ups—were all too eager to dismiss the idea of a gondola as naive and out of the question.
The reality is that gondolas can beefficientandcost-effectiveurban transportation, and a gondola is a smart,outside-the-box solutionfor the unique set of obstacles associated witheast-west travelin central Seattle. Gondolas have been successfully implemented in cities worldwide, one of the most impressive examples being in Medellin, Columbia, wherea network of nine cable carsthat primarily serves the poor was completed in 2010. But when minds are stonewalled by a lack of confidence, such positives tend to be overlooked, and instead people focus on all the reasons why it could never work.