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New Years Resolutions for the Environment

Help protect the earth by subscribing to some of Conservation International’s 10 New Year’s resolutions. Several strike at the heart of our consumerist society’s most ingrained habits. For water, use reusable glassware rather than the ubiquitous plastic bottles and cans. In 2006 the average American consumed over 400 bottles and cans, leaving behind waste plastic and aluminum. Another resolution: Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent lights, which use two-thirds less energy. They not only reduce the release of greenhouse gas emissions but are also safer, because they burn at a lower temperature. While you’re at it, turn down your hot water heater by setting it at 130 degrees and lower your thermostat by 3 degrees. These two simple steps could prevent the emission of over 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide in 2007.

Internationally and on a more challenging note, plant a tree. Trees absorb harmful greenhouse gases; but worldwide, trees are vanishing at an alarming rate. The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that every year approximately 32 million acres of forests are destroyed, releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The situation is especially grave in poor countries where people use wood for cooking. The result is a loss of biodiversity. Madagascar offers an example. It is home to an array of species found nowhere else on the planet, but they are now at risk because of extensive deforestation. Planting a tree is not as hard as you might think. Some trees in a box can be ordered online.

The Next Bill Gates

Where will the next Bill Gates come from? Not from the United States, most Americans say, in a telephone poll conducted by Zogby International and 463 Communications and released in December. Which countries, then, do respondents think provide the creative and entrepreneurial milieu required to form the world’s next technological innovator? China or Japan, say 49 percent; the United States, say 21 percent; India, say 13 percent.

Right or wrong, the findings indicate how Americans rate the ability of the United States to produce another world-class leader in technology. Also in the report a pollster asserts, The next Bill Gates has already been born. The poll’s simple question implies that leaders do not come from nowhere, like Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but grow from rich soil. If that is true, a society is at least partly responsible for the quality of its leaders. Bill Gates, a living metaphor for leader, is a rare blend of entrepreneur, billionaire and innovative philanthropist.

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What would Christians in the United States say if asked where the next Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez will come from? When we assess the quality of faith manifest in our local churches (the worship, outreach and hospitality) and couple it with the creative freedom America offers at its best, do we find soil rich enough to nurture the next world-class spiritual leader? And is the boy or girl already born who can bring warring nations to the peace table or uncover gross injustices and show society how to rid itself of those?

Teammates and Rivals

In 1862, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln faced a complicated crisis within his administration. His secretary of state, William H. Seward, was the target of rumors blaming him as a paralyzing influence on the army and the president. Some of these rumors originated with another cabinet member, Salmon P. Chase, secretary of the treasury. Calls came for Seward’s removal, and a committee of senators demanded to meet with Lincoln. In response, Seward tendered his resignation.

Most executives would have found this predicament paralyzing. But as Doris Kearns Goodwin notes in her book Team of Rivals, Lincoln was a master of conciliation; Lincoln gathered together his cabinet, who pledged their support for him. Then, in the presence of Chase, he met with the committee of senators and presented a united front. A mortified Chase offered to resign. In the end, Lincoln kept two men upon whom he relied: the newly secure Seward and the newly defanged Chase.

Compare this to the portrait of President Bush’s management of his own war cabinet in Thomas E. Ricks’s book, aptly titled Fiasco. One Bush adviser spoke about the war between the State Department and the Defense Department, which extended to people who had to work with, and trust one anotherand they didn’t. (At one point Donald Rumsfeld refused to return Condoleeza Rice’s phone calls.) Over this internal confusion presided Mr. Bush, unable to master the situation. Perhaps it is unfair to compare anyone to Abraham Lincoln, but it is a reminder of the value not only of political experience, but of something more ineffable and perhaps more necessary for a leaderemotional intelligence.

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