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May 21, 2007
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A Different Kind of Global Warming

We have all been hearing more and more in the last several years about global warming. At first many people argued that the warnings about the destruction of the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, warming of ocean temperatures, melting of polar ice caps and destruction of plant and animal habitat was false, misleading and bad for business. Scientists themselves disagreed, and many national politicians “froze in the headlights” in order to avoid taking what they feared would be unpopular stances.

Today, there is little doubt and little disagreement in the scientific community that the concerns about climate change fueled by global warming are true. While we certainly lack the ability to be very specific about the timing and nature of the impacts of climate change, there is no longer any doubt that effects will occur and that an aggressive agenda of change must be taken quickly to mitigate the results.

Among people experienced and trained in the “close personal protection” of public officials (i.e. the Secret Service and other such agencies around the world) or private individuals through corporate security organizations, there is a common motto: “Put off the day when something bad happens!” The idea is to be proactive and assertive in anticipating problems and acting before they actually occur to reduce the harm that would otherwise happen. This is the approach we must take in confronting an enemy far more dangerous to the future of all of us than Al Qaeda or bird flu.

Global warming cannot be defeated by the U.S. military, nor does climate change realize that it can’t cross international borders or local government jurisdictional lines without the proper paperwork.

There is, however, another kind of global warming which the HR Doctor points out should be strongly encouraged and supported. It is a kind of climate change that will benefit everyone. It is the global warming of interpersonal relations.

In workplaces as well as in other areas of our daily encounters with one another, the ties between people appear to have been weakening over the years. Of course, we are more mobile, and we move from place to place more frequently. It is estimated that about 17 percent of Americans move each year.

Family structures have changed. We don’t spend much time getting to know our neighbors. Rather, that time has been converted into time trapped in our four-wheel drive SUVs on overcrowded highways or time spent watching television. Americans watch an estimated four hours of television per day. It is true, of course, that keeping up with the latest comings and goings on American Idol, Dancing with the Stars or Survivor are critically important to our national well being.

However, imagine how our family and work relationships could improve if we only watched three hours of television a day and took that extra hour in our lives to reengage with our families, our neighbors, our communities and other people around the world. That would amount to over 28,500 hours in the average lifespan of an American, which could be spent far more productively.

If we did this “hours-restructuring” in our lives, we would find that people who speak different languages than we do, have different religious beliefs, dress differently, eat differently and earn a living differently are fundamentally just like us.

Mankind has recently reached a human milestone in which more people in the world live in cities than live in rural, agricultural, non-urban areas. Cities have a tendency to turn all of us around the world into a basic “vanilla” flavor in terms of lifestyle. We look for parking spaces, we shop at malls, we eat out, we stand in line, etc.

Although there are rich differences from city to city, the fact that we all become “urbanites” supports the idea that the global warming of human relationships is a phenomenon beyond demographic differences such as those described above. People all share common elements of a human heritage, including hopes and dreams for the future. People and their governments will all develop a common and increasing sense of urgency to preserve that heritage by changing the behaviors that harm our home planet. The behavior may involve consuming less electricity and gasoline, but it could also mean behavior changes such as spending more non-TV time studying other cultures, “adopting” exchange students, supporting charities and volunteering.

A modest suggestion to begin might be as simple as having lunch with your mom or dad or child before it’s too late and having a meaningful conversation with them sharing your hopes, joys and fears.

It may mean throwing a surprise birthday party for a friend or congratulating a coworker on a promotion. It means never singing “Happy Birthday to You” the way it is often sung at restaurants — by people who lack a passion for what they are doing or sense of really caring that someone is having a birthday.

We need to take active steps to support the Global Warming of our relationships — make a new friend!

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor •


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