In light of recent national
and international events, REED magazine invited alumni, faculty
members, and students to share their thoughts about the future.
Cultivating a sense of place
By Jennifer Ferenstein 88
Tucked in the sandstone of Bullet Canyon, Utah,
is an ancient rock-walled kiva. Directly above hovers a pale moon-shaped
image flecked with robins egg blue and geranium red. For eight days
I walked this red rock canyon through rain, snow, and sun. I thought that
being here away from the pressures of phones and computers would make
it easier for me to identify the major environmental challenges of the
future. I was wrong. Instead, the arrowheads and grinding stones of the
Anasazi culture brought the past into sharper focus while the future faded
away like the far distant peaks of the Henry Mountains.
It wasnt until my return home to Missoula, Montana, when I tuned
into President Bushs State of the Union address, that I focused
again on the future. At Reed, the role of history, philosophy, and scientific
method figured prominently in my worldview. In contrast, President Bushs
words were devoid of any reference to history. He offered up no inspiration
through the words or deeds of past leaders, no historical perspective,
and really no hopes for a better future. It was a speech for the rootless
by a man who seems to fail to grasp the relationship between world events
and human existence.
Overcoming this lack of connectedness
between place, people, and society is the greatest challenge we face.
Globalization, loss of biodiversity, unsustainable population growth,
and climate change reflect this failure. I offer one significant example
currently being debated in Congress that will affect our environment and
future generations: energy.
President Bush has repeatedly called on the Senate to approve an energy
bill that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil
drilling; provide $33 billion in subsidies to the oil, coal, and nuclear
industries; and increase global warming pollution. Drilling the ANWR will
not meet our energy needs, but it will forever destroy one of our nations
great wildlands. Nobody knows exactly how much oil lies under the ANWR,
but government estimates indicate there is less than a six months
supply. Even the oil industry admits it would take 10 years to make it
to U.S. markets.
We cannot drill ourselves to energy independence. Our nation consumes
25 percent of the worlds oil, and yet we sit on less than 3 percent
of the worlds known oil reserves. The challenge is to create an
energy plan that creates a strong framework for a safer, cleaner, and
more secure energy future. A recent Union of Concerned Scientists study
reports that we can get 20 percent of our energy from renewable sources
by 2020. The Senate should adopt a 20 percent renewable portfolio standard
that uses market-based mechanisms to require utilities to increase the
portion of electricity produced from renewable resources such as wind,
biomass, geothermal, and solar energy.
Cars, SUVs, and light trucks guzzle eight million barrels of oil every
day, and the average fuel economy of new vehicles now stands at a 21-year
low. By increasing our auto fuel efficiency to an average 40 miles per
gallon over the next 10 years we will save nearly 2 million barrels of
oil per day by 2012. Of all the energy measures under consideration in
the Senate, none will be more effective at reducing our nations
oil dependence than raising fuel economy standards to this standard. This
would save consumers billions of dollars at the gas pump and reduce carbon
dioxide emissions that cause global warming.
There are myriad environmental issues but one key challenge: to acknowledge
that the planets health depends upon the active participation of
each of us. Apathy is the enemy, and our best defense is cultivating a
sense of place and a commitment to protecting our air, water, and land.
|Jennifer Ferenstein 88 is president
of the Sierra Club, Americas oldest and largest grassroots environmental
organization. She is the youngest woman to serve in this role since the
Sierra Club was founded in 1892.
Making flying the skies friendly (again)
By Michael E. Levine 62
The first decade of the 21st century
will be a time of exceptional challenge and continuing evolution in an
industry that already has been changed radically by deregulation and world
events in the last 25 years. To understand where we are today, we need
to look back briefly from where we came.
Until 1978, the federal government regulated where airlines could fly
and how much they could charge. This system protected them from competition,
change, and bankruptcy. Costs, including high labor costs, were automatically
passed on to customers. Then came deregulation. New airlines were permitted
to compete, incumbent airlines were free to change routes, and fares were
freed from the formula. Prices dropped radically as new low-cost competitors
emerged. Some big airlines (Eastern, Pan Am, and later TWA) died.
The big airlines built hub-and-spoke networks designed to get travelers
frequently and conveniently to and from almost any city in America. At
the same time, airlines learned to charge business customers for convenience
and then fill the leftover seats with bargain fares. Average fares dropped
by more than half, and traffic grew spectacularly. In 1970, only about
a quarter of Americans had flown. By 1985, almost three-quarters had done
The boom years of the late 1990s set the airlines up for a new shock.
Seduced by a lack of resistance from business customers, network airlines
raised their walk-up fares to new highs. Airline unions bargained
for still higher wages and fewer work hours, forcing the airlines to raise
fares yet more.
The shock came in the past years double whammy of recession and
terrorist attack. As the recession hit, businesses simply refused to pay
network airlines higher prices, and discount airlines slice
of the market grew rapidly. September 11 made travel initially frightening
and later inconvenient. Demand dropped dramatically, and airlines were
forced to offer much lower fares to keep people flying.
This was not a major problem for discount airlines, but high fixed costs,
unproductive labor arrangements, and the need to maintain connecting flights
made it very difficult for the network airlines to cope. They demanded
and got federal aid to avoid an industrywide wave of bankruptcies. Increased
security made air service both less convenient and more costly.
The next decade will require network airlines to dramatically revise their
pricing model, so that business customers can take advantage of convenience
at prices they regard as reasonable value. Contractual obstacles, most
seriously in labor productivity, will make lowering their costs very difficult.
Network airlines that adapt will be much better able to compete with discount
airlines, offering convenient, frequent service. Those that dont.
. . .
Thats the cost side. Demand is also a problem. Airlines and government
must find a way to preserve the convenience of the system while making
it secure, despite the rigidities and politicization that federalizing
airport security has brought. To meet this challenge will require technology
and ingenuity. One use of technology to reduce screening workload is likely
to be voluntary, trusted traveler cards biometrically encoded
to prevent forgery and linked to databases that will verify that their
holders are unlikely to present a threat to security.
The almost unbelievable accessibility of air transportation since deregulation
has fueled a breadth of experience for the many once reserved only to
the elite. The optimist in me believes that this is too valuable to give
up. The challenge will be in finding the way forward.
|A Reed board member since 1984, Michael E.
Levine 62 has been involved with airlines and airline deregulation
as an academic at U.S.C., Caltech, and Yale (where he was dean of the
School of Management), as well as a leading architect of airline deregulation
and as an airline senior executive at Continental and Northwest, and CEO
of New York Air. He now teaches law at Harvard and is chairman of Rohn
Speaking and acting together
Linda Howard 70
I work at 100 Church Street in New
York, one block north of the World Trade Center. Im on the executive
staff of the New York City Law Department and on September 11 was looking
forward to spending the day training 54 newly graduated attorneys. That
morning, everything changed.
In the days following, I felt what most New Yorkers felt: the grievous
loss of life, the frightening loss of security, sudden dislocation, the
loss of home and livelihood for many, and powerlessness. A new word crept
into my speaking. Attack. I havent returned to my office since
the . . . attack. That word changed my reality. I began to use euphemisms,
like the recent events and the day everything changed.
My reality was changing in ways I did not like.
People around me had more immediate roles. Within hours, our contract
lawyers arranged for contractors to move rubble from the site. Within
days, our legal counsel attorneys had drafted emergency declarations,
providing for the expenditure of millions of dollars and answering questions
like, How does a family obtain a death certificate when there is
no body? An extraordinary group of lawyers began the tearful process
of recording family members statements to prove that their loved
ones had perished. My brother, Roscoe, was sworn in as the new U.S. Attorney
for the District of Columbia and began to set up a terrorism unit in his
office. I thought, How am I going to stop this war all by myself?
I wanted to do something, but nothing seemed to be enough. When I was
asked to give a speech at a womens conference I leapt at the opportunity.
I found a way to contribute to the effort; I could contribute words.
It is more important now than ever, I told the audience, for each of us
to speak what we believe and to align actions with words.I challenged
them to find fellow believers and begin to create a city and a world in
which our higher purposes govern. This is a call, not to arms, but a call
Among the principles of our democracy, the most important is the freedom
of speech. This is one of those exceptional moments when ordinary people
have the opportunity and the responsibility to exercise the ultimate power
of words, which is to invent their reality and create the world in which
I told them that the impact of September 11 on New Yorkers had been intensely
personal. However, the ultimate results could be global and transforming.
We have that power. Speaking and acting together we can inspire one another
to take small actions that lead to great actions. We can realize the world
that we hope in our hearts is possible. If we work together, generosity,
love, and understanding can supplant greed, hatred, misunderstanding,
|Linda G. Howard 70 is an attorney on the
executive staff of the New York City Law Department and a former White
House Fellow. She has been a member of the Reed College board of trustees