Four New Year’s Resolutions for the Mississippi River

 This January, it seems to be the fashion to disparage new year’s resolutions. Having said that, where would we be if we didn’t make efforts – resolutions – from time to time to get things done? This year is a fitting year –not withstanding resolution disparagement trends – to take stock and make at least four resolutions for the Mississippi River. 

Resolution #1: Avoid Mississippi River decision making on a location-specific basis and without a whole-River framework. Make this the year that we actualize what we know about the science of rivers-as-water-systems and apply it to America’s great waterway. 

Resolution #2: Adopt new technologies for Mississippi River decision making and leave behind the entrapments of the “usual suspects” and the expense of meetings where participants hear from “experts” but don’t get to take any action. Technological teamwork tools exist and it’s time to put them to use. 

Resolution #3: Ensure that all stakeholders and voices are accounted for when making decisions about the Mississippi River. After all, the Mississippi is America’s river – economically, ecologically and culturally – and plans for its future need to incorporate the various interests or they won’t be lasting or effective. How is this possible? Take a look at the work of AmericaSpeaks, the country’s foremost convener of 21st century town meetings® that invariably build agreement around action plans. Their process is the basis for our National Dialogue for the Future of America’s Waterway

Resolution #4: Focus on the future and don’t rehash the past. The past is where ill will resides. Allowing it into the discussion of a future plan reminds participants of fatal failures. Focusing on the future allows creativity, enables more parties’ participation in the discussion, and makes exploration of real solutions possible, regardless of regional considerations. 

As we head into 2013, expectations for collaboration have been raised throughout the watershed. Climate change and other forces have wreaked havoc on the river for two years in a row. The political system in Washington looks less and less capable of taking on large decisions on its own. And, several organizations have recognized the necessity of balancing competing economic, ecological and cultural priorities in any plan for the River or its watershed. 

Perhaps the research of Stephen Shapiro, author of “Goal-Free Living” and Opinion Research Corp., combined with the wit of, summed it up best: “45% of Americans usually make New Year’s Resolutions, yet only 8% achieve their goals. 38% of Americans refuse to make any resolutions and are 100% successful at achieving the goals they refused to set.”

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