Notes on Quotes: Hiking and Predicting the Future
“Change is not merely necessary to life-it is life.” Alvin Toffler, Futurist
Often in creating significant hiking trail areas, leadership is involved. The Pinnacle Park Foundation and Town of Sylva along with Tom Massie, Mayor Brenda Oliver, Attorney Jay Coward, and local citizens helped preserve over 1000 acres area of conservation wilderness in Sylva known as Pinnacle Park. There are many trails in the park including a 3.5 mile hike to the “Pinnacle,” where there is a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
As we started hiking, Rick and Sandra Grunwell gave us an overview of Pinnacle Park and the trail to the Pinnacle, which features great views along beautiful Fisher Creek. They were impressed with the trail’s ecological diversity. Pinnacle Park is located at the end of Fisher Creek Road in Sylva and the trail to the Pinnacle is characterized by natural rock formations, furs, rhododendron and the clearest flowing water we had ever seen. We were not surprised that this watershed area had once supplied water for the Town of Sylva. We were writing on community leadership and its importance to our future as a nation. We found the Pinnacle Park wilderness conservation area and the hiking trails to be a wonderful example of the effectiveness of local leaders and citizens working together.
As humans we are naturally curious. People who make predictions for the future enhance television talk show ratings and sell magazines and newspapers. The future is a mystery and most of us love mysteries and, we would like for our lives to go well!
Recently the editors of “Popular Mechanics” made predictions for the future from a technological perspective. Many predictions sounded unbelievable but were actually well on their way to being implemented. Cars are predicted to become more advanced in terms of sensing other cars around them, cement will be made that heals itself when cracked and advances are being made to make chemotherapy treatments more tolerable with the use of nanoparticles which target the specific cancer cells.
Journalist Lorenzo Fanceschi-Bicchierai recently listed predictions for the next 50 years from “Information is Beautiful.” Predictions included humans that live to 150, passenger airplanes flying without pilots, and driver free cars. Other predictions included China leading the world in scientific research, currency becoming digital and the genetic makeup of children being selected by parents. Oh, and an “immortal’ mouse” will be developed by 2015. In their defense, this was ranked as among the least likely to occur.
We wondered what the American people were predicting. “USA Today” and Gallup Poll did a survey on our expectations for 2013 and our expectations were not optimistic. Eighty- two percent of us think taxes will rise and sixty-five percent of us expect a year of economic difficulty. Sixty-eight percent expect crime to increase. Only half of us think our nation’s youth will have a better life than their parents and only half of us believe our nation’s best years are ahead. According to a recent Pew Research poll one-third of the American population view themselves as being in the lower class. Fifty- seven percent of those polled think our power in the world will decline.
Part of our pessimism is certainly the impact of recent economic and political difficulties. We worry that China is currently gaining much of the world’s manufacturing and control over the world’s resources and may overtake us as the top economic power within the next ten years.
Small business enterprises are the number one employer in the United States. Local and state governments, who have historically recruited outside industry and manufacturing, are finding fewer firms to recruit. We need to empower our citizens and our communities by strengthening existing small businesses and helping those who wish to create their own small business or enterprise.
Nearly all jobs and businesses require those involved to be computer literate. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce, twenty-eight percent of U. S. adults do not use the internet. The computer literacy gap is one of our biggest barriers to obtaining jobs and to small business development in the United States. Small community based business entrepreneurial development and educational centers helping to develop small businesses and teaching business fundamentals and focusing on business plans, sources of loans, fundamental accounting and tax practices, ecommerce, market research and business computer programs are needed in all communities.
The future of our nation’s economy has a great deal to do with our optimism as citizens. Small business development through non-profit or community based educational centers to close our computer literacy gap and offering training in small business development is a grass roots solution that will strengthen our local economies.
. Universities and community colleges offer classes in this area and some nonprofits are providing training and support for interested citizens but more needs to be done. One the world’s most advanced futuristic libraries for entrepreneurial development and high tech learning is the Hunt Library on the N. C. State campus. The bookbot delivers books to the user within five minutes, 3 dimensional printers are available, a teaching and visualization lab provides support for advance visualization projects and students can study video game development processes. The public as well as students may utilize the world’s most advanced technological library, which helps stimulate advanced entrepreneurial thinking.
The Small Business and Technology Center at Western Carolina University provides services for small business development including business opportunities development, technology development, confidential business counseling, and assistance on capital financing and future business planning. The “Princeton Review” has given Western Carolina University’s College of Business high rankings and Western Carolina University has been listed in “The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.”
A focus on communities empowering citizens through entrepreneurship will help restore our optimism and our faith in the American dream.
Dr. Gordon Mercer is past president and on the Board of Trustees of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society and professor emeritus at Western Carolina University. Marcia Gaines Mercer is a published children’s author and columnist.