Could New Infrastructure Bridge Our Political Divides?

Mar 5, 2018


President Trump's long-anticipated infrastructure plan now seems dead on arrival, but few would argue with the need for widespread infrastructure upgrades. Mark Stevenson, author of "An Optimist's Tour of the Future," and "We Do Things Differently: The Outsiders Rebooting Our World," says many of our current systems are failing to meet the grand challenges of the 21st century—from climate change, to income inequality, to food production for more than seven billion—and the choice we face is to let them crumble, or overhaul them.

Stevenson says the energy sector is where we are likely to see the most rapid and dramatic shifts. But his vision for the future of infrastructure includes an education system that teaches through teamwork and experience; farms that work with nature and lift farming families out of poverty; a healthcare system that recognizes and supports the ability of patients to heal themselves and each other; and corporations who gauge their success based on principals rather than short-term profits.

It is optimistic, if not utopian, but Stevenson is reluctant to call himself an optimist. These changes are possible, but not inevitable, he argues. And the money and power backing the status quo makes change hard. On the other hand, he says infrastructure can be a bridge over political divides.

"What you find is that people divided by politics are very soon brought together by projects," Stevenson said. "You can get Donald Trump's biggest fan and Hillary Clinton's biggest fan in the same room, and you ask them to build something, and their politics will disappear."