Sunday, October 12, 2014
Simple Changes Made Hard
A volcano has erupted on Linden Lane. You know, the much maligned piling of mulch against a tree trunk that could prove deleterious for the tree. I'm not passionate as some about this, but thought I'd knock on the door in a friendly neighborly sort of way. Nothing to it, really. Empowered by newly gained knowledge, the resident would pull the mulch away from the tree and the problem solved. Five minutes, tops.
The guy who answered the door is a renter. Nice conversation as his pre-toddler looked up at me with bright curiosity. But it's the owner who hires the landscape crew. The renter would need to contact the owner, who would need to contact the landscaper, who would need to alert his crew, which has probably always done things this way and would need persistent reminding to change.
In other words, a five minute task to benefit the tree has just become impossible.
Another example: An old window-mounted air conditioner runs all day in an office overlooking Nassau Street, barely cooling the small room. It needs to be replaced. Seems simple enough. But the building owner requires a new one be 110 rather 220volt. The building is so wired that all 110 appliances are automatically shut off at 8pm, as an energy saving policy. But the office is sometimes used until 9pm, and on hot summer evenings that last hour could be uncomfortable for clients. So the old AC rattles on.
Another example: A homeowner's landscaper dumps leaves on a street frequented by kids on the way to school. The leaves narrow the street, pushing bicyclists out into car traffic, and the leaf dumping ignores the town leaf pickup schedule. The homeowner has a huge lawn and could easily pile leaves in a back corner. Friendly conversations ensue with the owners and with the landscaper, who drives to Princeton from south Jersey every couple weeks, but no change.
Funny. We're a highly adaptable species, and yet the resistance to change, both personal and institutional, so often wins out.
Posted by Stephen Hiltner