Friday, May 10, 2019

Trip Plans


Our small GAP team got through the third page of our task list today. Most of the tasks involved data processing, along with scanning of paper photos and maps collected from the three test communities over the past month. It wasn’t all secretarial: we got to manually study what we were scanning and record anything we found of interest.

Starting tomorrow we will be visiting the two other test communities in the Rocky Mountain region, learning firsthand about their daily activities by actually participating in them. We’ll spend most of the weekend at one of the communities, TC-014, which is in the middle of Wyoming butte country and part of the desert biome. Then we’ll spend nearly two days at TC-015, northwest of Yellowstone National Park in Montana's temperate grasslands biome and near both the desert and temperate coniferous biomes.

Maura reminded me that the first test community that I visited with her (TC-186) is also in temperate grasslands, and near the temperate broadleaf biome. Al added that some of the most interesting ecosystems are mixes of several types, and the borders of the Yellowstone area are among his all-time favorites in the United States. During the trip we’ll be able to make assessments of a variety of environments with a Personal Environmental Assessment Kit, “running it through its paces” as Al likes to say.

As I studied a map of our route in our now crowded office at the RMOC, I felt an echo of the concern I had with the distribution of test communities. I asked, “Doesn’t it bother either you that these communities are downright tiny and out of the way?”

“What’s your point, Will?” Al asked. “Except for our number thirteen, they’re in proximity to the stations for observin’ verification. You know that.”

“But do they represent what most people will experience? I get that the commune flavor matches what might be the case in the end state, and the isolation helps keep the data clean.” I realized I really was talking like an engineer. “But can we count on them reflecting what people in even modest-sized towns would be able to do, or want to do?”

“They’re not aliens,” he said. “Most of ‘em have grown up near the communities, or got their education in large cities. They know what to expect.”

“Is that really the same thing?” I pushed.

“Al’s right,” Maura said. “This was all considered when the reference strategy started being developed. It wasn’t considered an issue. What do you recommend instead?”

The answer suddenly became crystal clear. “We take it on the road.”

“Take what on the road?” she asked.

“Like what we did when we were testing the PEAK around here. We start the roll-out early, informally, enlisting everyone we meet to start taking the first steps and get used to seeing things differently. Let’s face it: we already know most of what needs to be done. The experts in the test communities can get out into their local communities and begin educating people immediately, get them thinking creatively about what to do next.”

Maura paused, apparently taking it seriously. “Extinction Response is already working with local governments on the roll-out. How would this be different?”

“That’s at the government level. It has the appearance of being imposed on people from the top. I’m suggesting simultaneously building from the bottom up.”

“Let’s talk more about it during our trip,” she said. “We can ask the testers what they think.”

Reality Check

The descriptions of the settings for the test communities are a general match to reality, but they are still fictional.

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