I listened to a fascinating book, The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis, in which he highlights the National Weather Service and the data it collects. I know that doesn’t sound like a riveting read, but truly his narrative was simultaneously provocative, enlightening, and disturbing.
The Weather Service collects substantial data – from every airport in America and hundreds of other sources every day – and, as in all things, information is power. Lewis’ writing raises questions about who should have access to that data, what role partisan political advisors have in making the information accessible to all, and the quest for increasing control of the information by private weather sources (like Accuweather and the Weather Channel) who have incentives to charge for forecasts rather than prioritizing public safety.
Kathryn Sullivan, the former top administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, made an observation that stuck with me: Lewis writes: “The relationship between the people and their government troubled her. The government was the mission of an entire society; why was the society undermining it?…The sense of identity as citizen has been replaced by consumer: the idea that the government should serve the citizens like a waiter or concierge rather than in a collective good sense.”
I hope that all those who were elected yesterday have a different view of how our democracy should operate. I fervently hope that they promote the collective good instead of profits; that they see the role of government as serving the entire society instead of individual interests and that they restore the pride and identity of Americans as citizens instead of consumers or adversaries.
Michael Lewis entitled his narrative: “The Coming Storm.” Instead, I hope we have elected leaders who will act as citizens to help us collectively move toward the coming light.
Source: The Coming Storm by Michael Lewis, an Audible Original, 2018.