While working in Egypt in 1963-64, I—who as a very young 24—wanted to go to a particular “black hill” I had been told about because the hill had blackish geckos living on it, and I wanted to study them. The hill was in the desert about 300 miles southwest of Alexandria. The desert in this part of Egypt is flat and sandy with vast areas of desert pavement that stretch for hundreds of miles in all directions.
We had traveled by jeep a couple of miles when my Bedouin guide told me to steer about three inches to the right. This sounded ridiculous. What difference could three inches possibly make? He didn’t even have a map!
Nevertheless, I was finally persuaded to make this “insignificant” correction when my guide suddenly yelled: “Stop! Land mine!” That got my attention because there was scattered evidence of long-hidden mines scattered throughout the miles of desert in the form of shattered camel skeletons.
Three days later we were at the black hill, and my guide told me to get my map. I spread the map on the hood of the jeep and learned about humility. My guide drew a triangle and showed me that a correction of three inches near Alexandria had saved us about 50 miles worth of fuel and water on our way to the black hill–fuel and water we didn’t have to spare.
If we had gone my way, we would either have had to stop short of the black hill and turned back, or our bones would still be bleaching somewhere under the desert sun. And so I learned that the further we predict into the trackless future, the more conscious and clear we must be of our vision, goals, objectives—and our data.
All available data must be used, and planning, which is done in the invisible present, must be carried out far enough into the future to show the probable consequences our actions have set in motion, as exemplified by my trip to the black hill. Else, we leave the future blindly to the future.
In this sense, we talk about our responsibility to the future, but that is not enough. We also need to act in such a way that we ensure, to the greatest extent humanly possible, that all generations of the future have the ability to respond to the legacy of options we leave them. It’s therefore imperative that we understand and account for the short-, mid-, and long-term ramifications of our decisions, which can only be done by taking them seriously in thought, accounting, and action.
True, we cannot foresee all the cumulative effects of our actions, and we cannot wait until everything is known before we act. But there definitely are some potential affects that can be projected, based on available data, which we all-too-often persist in stubbornly ignoring.
Text and Photos © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.
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