An Investment in the Future
It is said that Eisenhower brought home the Autobahn; that he foresaw the need for airports. Let us say that President Eisenhower, seeing these needs for infrastructure, brought America into the 20th Century, and say, “Thanks, Ike.” Through the years, the interstate gave everyone access to work, to recreation, to their Doctor, to the shopping mall, … ; Today, for these same reasons and more, every household should have good access to the internet, and, have a few other good things.
Before Eisenhower, President Roosevelt’s New Deal and its kin employed the unemployed of the Great Depression to build a lot of infrastructure, much of which is still in use today, nearly one-hundred years later. New Deal infrastructure included: safe clean water supplies, electricity, telephones, roads, schools, libraries, universities, parks, hydroelectric and irrigation dams, … . All of these things improved our quality of life. Imagine the 20th Century without them. Imagine today without them. Imagine life without recreation, recreation without those hiking trails. Our National Parks without conservation. Quality of life is important. Infrastructure improves our quality of life.
Imagine life without clean safe drinking water in our homes, our schools; without working sewers, electricity, postal service, and telephones. Unfortunately, for some of us, that is all too easy. Bringing these systems up to snuff would be a really good place for President Biden to start. These are some of the things that need to be done in order catch up, to maintain the status quo. In the 20th we needed interstates and airports, waste water treatment, water treatment, …. These are still much a part of the way forward in this, the early 21st Century. Of late, and for some time now, nothing much has been done about most of these things. There are many roads and bridges that need to be repaired or replaced, water lines that need to be replaced, …, upgrades to water and sewage treatment plants that need be made, … . Better that these repairs and upgrades be done simultaneous the other needed improvements to housing, internet access, healthcare, and education.
As surely as interstate highways and airports led us forward in the mid-twentieth, research and development, education, communication, healthcare, … will take us forward in the 21st Century and beyond. In order to just stay even, we need to always be looking as far ahead as we can.
That was then along with some of the catching up needed. Now, President Biden needs to look to our infrastructural needs to bring us into the 21st and beyond. Beyond those roads and runways of the 1950s, what is all else is to be included in this we call infrastructure? What are some of the infrastructural needs of today? Equally important, what will be those of tomorrow?
Climate Change is the greatest, the most immediate threat, facing all humans today. If we do not arrest the progression of global warming, we will not be advancing. Instead, our species will be fighting to survive. If we are to thrive, to even survive, as a nation, as a species, we must deal with Climate Change. Ergo, infrastructure must address the consequences of climate change. We will need to avoid making costly mistakes such as building on what are to become flood plains; we will need to relocate away from these areas. We will need new ways of storing drinking water, of treating drinking water, of treating sewage. We need to think anew our means for energy distribution.
We must get off fossil fuels. What will energy distribution look like in a non-fossil fuel world? What forms of energy will we be distributing? We need to rapidly develop alternative sources of energy, better ways to store energy. From the private automobile, to airlines, to mass transportation, to freight; we should be looking at new means of of powering transportation systems.
Evergreen Lines’ newly freed Ever Given is 1300 ft long and carries 10,000 40ft, or 20,000 20ft, containers (the equivalent of 10,000 fully loaded 18 wheeler big rigs). At sea, her 80,000 HP diesel engine moves her along at almost 23 knot/hr. That’s one hell of a lot of CO2 being emitted per hour. So is that being emitted by the 10,000 big rigs that brought and will take away all those containers. At what point did the chasing of cheap labor go too far? Do we really need to haul stuff half-way around the world? Why not build consumer goods closer to the point of consumption? Why aren’t we all a bit more self sufficient?
To the extent we do continue shipping huge quantities of goods and materials across countries, around the world, we will need new types of non-greenhouse gas emitting drive power for this transport. If we are to continue air travel at current and projected volumes, aircraft will need a different means of propulsion. This means that R&D itself should be much a part of our infrastructure going forward. While significant progress is being made in replacing CO2 emitting internal combustion engines in automobiles, more needs to be done more quickly. Again, more R&D. The task at hand is much bigger, more important, than the Manhattan Project.
The COVID-19 pandemic has but accelerated an already rapid pace of change. Amazon has grown faster; retail has changed faster. Schools will never be the same. Healthcare will never be the same. Airline travel will never be the same. Commuting to work will never be the same. Commercial real estate will never be the same. Mass transit will never again be as before. Global trade will never be the same. Und so weiter. What changes to infrastructure will be needed due all these changes?
Mark Benioff, Salesforce, founder, CEO, says that his company manufactures software (Go ahead, take the minute). He’s right of course. Software doesn’t need an interstate carrier, an airliner, a container ship. Software manufacture requires trained and educated people to write it; needs a world wide web to distribute it, and trained and educated persons to employ it. Benioff says that because of the pandemic, all 70,000 of Salesforce’s US employees are working from home. Infrastructure for tomorrow needs include an adequate internet, education, education, and training. While we focus on Research and Development. Going forward, it is R&D that will lead the way, R&D will that provide solutions. In order to effectively address the here and now, the future, of infrastructural needs, we as a nation, the world, must invest in — Research and Development.