Tue, Jun

America Needs California … Now, More Than Ever


AN ALTERNATIVE TO WALLED-OFF US--On Tuesday Nov. 8, Californians voted in record numbers to reaffirm our commitment to freedom, openness and really just basic human decency.  This fundamental difference in values offers an alternative future for America and indeed the world.

Civilizations succeed when they open themselves to new ideas and new people from new places. There is nothing great in closing off a country from the world.  Simply compare the backwardness of inward-looking medieval Europe – filled with castle walls – to the flourishing in the open minded Renaissance.

As an alternative to a walled off America, California builds bridges to every corner of the globe.  Every iconic Apple product says “designed in California,” and Hollywood movies inspire millions.  That open and imaginative attitude is exactly what the world needs to build a bright future.

Today, Californians work to automate driving, pioneer personalized medicine and colonize Mars. Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s leadership, California’s economy has growth to the sixth largest economy in the world, and our once-troubled state finances have stabilized.

Yes, California still has its share of problems.  Housing costs prohibit all but the creative elite from affording life in too much of coastal California.  Too many of our roads are chock full of potholes. The quality of too many of our kids’ schools is too often a function of the zip code they live in.  And a lingering drought challenges us to do more to prepare for an uncertain water future.

Yet fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with California that cannot be addressed by what is right with California.  Gov. Brown’s call for common sense reforms could lower housing costs. New sensors can map potholes radically more affordably and comprehensively

The web can connect students with opportunities unimaginable a generation ago and help us move beyond our one-size-fits-all public education system. And new data technologies enable new ways to measure and thus better manage California’s precious water resources. 

Today there is a global crisis of confidence in our basic public institutions. Meanwhile, ultimately none of those promising pilots linked above are certain.  Ultimately, they simply highlight a new frontier for public problem solving. Of course, the pioneers’ journey by land and sea to California was far from certain as well.

Today’s challenges offer a golden opportunity for Californians to bring that pioneering spirit to bear on our pressing public problems.  America – and indeed the world – needs nothing less from California today.

(Patrick Atwater is an author, entrepreneur and frequent Calbuzz commentator.  He currently runs a big water data project to prepare California to adapt to our historic drought and whatever the future holds. This perspective was posted first at Cal Buzz.


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