Book about elevating sustainability as a national strategic imperative is an impressive guide on how the US can shape a prosperous future.
My daughter was at a sustainability conference in Santa Clara, California recently. She heard a talk by Mark (Puck) Mykleby describing his book, The New Grand Strategy – Restoring America’s Prosperity, Security and Sustainability in the 21st Century. Knowing how well his ideas aligned with mine, she told him, “You’ve got to talk with my dad.” My daughter, a municipal public policy analyst, continues to introduce me to some of the most interesting people.
A few weeks later, I spoke to Puck, a former Marine aviator who goes by his call sign. I had no idea what we were going to talk about, but talk we did – for about an hour and a half. A little background: Puck and one of his co-authors are both ex-military, so I expected a strong lean toward the armed forces and how we should be positioned globally as we move forward in the 21st century – especially since Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the one who commissioned the two officers to devise a new grand strategy for America. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
From the book’s liner notes, “It had been 56 years since Dwight Eisenhower defined the last grand strategy, and Mullen needed a new strategic direction that focused on America’s 21st century future, not its 20th century past.” The authors’ white paper argued for a strategy to recapture America’s greatness at home and abroad by elevating sustainability as a national strategic imperative. After leaving government, Puck, along with co-authors Patrick Doherty and Joel Makower, extended their research and strategies into this book.
A fundamental premise and the subject of the book’s Part II, “Three Pools of Demand,” is a focus on walkable communities, regenerative agriculture, and resource productivity. You may now be starting to understand how we ended up in such a long conversation. The book follows very closely our direction for West 2nd District here in Reno (west2nddistric.com) which I’ve written about in previous blogs.
Puck and I, along with co-author Patrick Doherty, decided we needed to have an extended conversation in Reno with our team to find more ways in which we could work together. This took place January 17. By the time the day ended, we all agreed it was the most directly-applicable discussion any of us had experienced. Puck and partners are now raising a fund for lending within projects that further their premises for steering a better course for America, including home mortgages that favor sustainably planned and executed communities along with capital for streetcar and light rail mobility. Their research and examples fortify the fundamental changes that are coming in the way millennials, the dominant generation of our time, are going to want to live, and why.
Puck had personally done the extended research, and I found this impressive. I tend to focus on books in this domain that have been supported by academic research. But the research in this book is as good as I’ve ever experienced, with more than ample explicit resources supporting their strategies and a bibliography that can easily draw the reader more deeply into any one of the specific strategies that the authors explore.
Part III of the book takes the reader beyond planning and place-making to how to pay for this, described through excellent sections on “Capital and Stranded Assets,” “A Business Plan for America,” and “Waiting on Washington.” I found the closing sections of the book, “Not Waiting on Washington,” and “We the People,” the most provocative and compelling chapters.
I learned what we’re doing here in Reno is not so crazy after all. I came away with a strong desire to highly recommend this book to anyone involved with community building – planners, architects, engineers, city councils, planning commissions, city staffs, and, most importantly, legislators and leaders at the state and federal levels. I’d say to them: Here’s your instruction manual and your grand strategy to propel our communities to greatness. Let’s go for it!
Ed Friedrichs, FAIA, FIIDA, is a consultant with Zweig Group and the former CEO and president of Gensler. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.