Larsen C: The Important vs. the Urgent

For me the Larsen Ice Shelf story, which is briefly in the headlines because of the dramatic calving of an iceberg (with the sober, scientific name “A68”), is a good example of the important as compared to the urgent (the slide you need to add at the last minute to your budget update PowerPoint deck).

The problem, and it’s not a new one, is that in the quest to stand-out and capture the attention of their leaders, people in organizations are focusing on flashy, short-term issues and events. They are encouraged to do this by leaders who positively reinforce those people and things that appeal to their sense of progress, “innovation” and dynamism.

As a result, issues that are much more important, but that develop over longer periods of time are often relegated. We can push these issues to the next meeting because it’s not something that will happen tomorrow. What’s happening in the Polar regions are a big picture, big (by our standards) timeframe set of complex developments but they are far more consequential than most anything on the front pages (with the possible exception of the threat of a nuclear exchange in the Korean peninsula).

So A68 will have its 15 minutes and then we’ll move on. But the issue of enormous structural change in the Arctic and Antarctic remains one of the most important issues we face economically, environmentally and politically.

By the way, most news outlets tried to impress their readers with the scale of A68 by comparing it to various cities, islands and states. Here is my list.


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