Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day. I look forward to this day each year (and not just because it is my birthday). It is a time to remember just how much others have done for you and the depth of sacrifice that has brought me so much, was driven home when I visited Washington DC earlier this year.
I was privileged to have time to take in some of the local historical attractions. Perhaps the biggest highlight of these attractions was visiting the National Archives Building – particularly the Rotunda which houses the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution. The magnitude of these documents and their impact on my life and the world was almost tangible as I stood there.
One cannot help but to marvel at the wisdom and foresight these individuals had as they came together, uniting in the creation of these documents. Not everyone agreed with each other – sacrifices were made, pride was set aside, and the blinders of individualism were removed for the betterment of people as a whole. Not only can you read visible portions of these documents, but you are given background on the individuals who came together to not only create these documents but form a new nation.
These people risked not only their lives and their livelihood, but those of significant others and in many cases, of those close to them. To me, one of the most significant common threads joining these individuals together is that they were willing to lay everything on the line to see their vision fulfilled. They had a clear vision for the future as well as the legacy they wanted to leave behind.
I believe the geosynthetics industry in the United States as well as in other countries is at a crossroads similar to what the Founding Fathers of the United States of America faced. This industry needs a clear vision for the future as well as leaders to stand up and put everything on the line for the betterment of others. The purpose of containment systems is to contain things that are harmful to our communities – not let them leak into the ground, potentially reaching the groundwater and impacting those we are saying we are protecting.
What is your vision? Do you want to accept several leaks per acre as the norm or push for zero leaks for the lifetime of the project?
What is your legacy? Did you know better but turn the other check because of pressure from constituencies or motivation for personal gain? Or did you stand up proudly, putting everything on the line, trying to make sure the industry gets this right?
Now is the time for individual reflection on your role in the industry and the impact you can have for the future. If we don’t get this right, people very well may be looking back at us and saying we were merely doing a “dog and pony show” that made us feel good at the time but did little to mitigate the real long-term problems of which we were aware.
We have the chance to be heroes to future generations, to stand up, do the right thing, push the envelope of business as usual. They may never know our names or the role we played and we likely will never have a monument in Washington, but if we work hard and sacrifice now, we will have changed the world for the better!