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Rivers of Thought

Rivers of Thought passed a milestone of sorts in November. Eight years ago I launched Rivers of Thought as a platform for blogging and speaking. It started with a whisper (I love that song by the Neon Trees, don’t you?) but has grown to so much more!

Eight Years of Blogging

Welcome to Rivers of Thought!

In this space you will find my musings about sustainable business practices, sustainable lifestyles and general observations about business, life and the world around us. For those that know me, you will not be surprised when I throw in the random Lewis and Clark story, or perhaps overuse a river analogy to make a point. I hope you find the postings interesting, worthy of comment and that they will stimulate some helpful dialog.

That was it, my very first post on November 26, 2008. I created Rivers of Thought when I started my sustainability consulting firm, Confluence Dynamics. I was new to using social media, heck, everyone was new to social media in 2008. My plan was to use it as a platform to promote the business. After a couple years, I made the decision to close the business (I preferred a paycheck over starving) Rivers of Thought was put on ice.

Fast forward a few more years. I was CIO for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. I held a firm belief that CIOs need to embrace Social Media. Not knowing exactly how to start, but wanting to be seen as a thought leader, I reached out to Rachel Nelson. Rachel was our Online Marketing Manager and social media guru. With her help Rivers of Thought was resurrected, given a facelift, and re-launched.

I now write for a variety of platforms in addition to Rivers of Thought. What started out as a blog about Rivers of Thought - Bloggingsustainability and environmental causes has morphed into a channel for stories about family, life, love and music. Some of the posts will make you chuckle, some will bring a tear. I hope in some small way, they generate reflection on your own life and loves.

On the Intel IT Peer Network, I focus on the role of the CIO and it’s continuing evolution. I am in the midst of my third series on that platform. “The Path to CIO: Profiles in Leadership” is a series of interviews with CIOs from around the world and in a variety of industries. The focus is on the steps they took to reach the office of CIO, while at the same time providing insights and advice to others on the path.

As a contributing author for People Development Magazine out of the UK, I write about leadership and staff development. My series, “The Roosevelt River: Lessons in Leadership from Theodore Roosevelt”, originally posted on Rivers of Thought was republished in People Development which greatly expanded its readership. In fact, the post “Blue Bloods’ Frank Reagan Paddles the Roosevelt River” remains my widest read post of the past eight years.

When LinkedIn launched its blog platform, I was among the first ones asked to be a contributor. On LinkedIn, I write about general interest business topics such as vendor management or collaboration. Among my most popular posts were “D’ya Want Fries with That?” and “You Want to Sell Me What?”.

During 2016, I was accepted into the Forbes Technology Council providing access to publishing on Forbes.com. Thus far, two of my posts have appeared on Forbes. On this platform, I write about technology trends and how they impact business.

Most recently, I was nominated to be a Fellow for the Institute for Digital Transformation. The Institute is a non-profit organization whose mission is to train IT leaders to help their companies grow and thrive in the digital economy. As a Fellow, I will be writing on a variety of topics under the Digital Transformation umbrella.

Through these various outlets I have been able to meet and interact with some incredibly talented people. Their willingness to share their insights and thoughts has been vital to my continued growth and learning…Chris Peters, Charlie Araujo, Isaac Sacolick, Will Lassalle, Christina Lattimer, E.G. Nadhan, and many, many more…I can’t thank you enough!

Eight Years of Speaking

At the same time I launched Rivers of Thought, I started down a parallel path (or stream) of public speaking. I had always been petrified of getting in front of people and talking. However, I knew to achieve my career goals, I would need to get over it and “put myself out there”. I had experience teaching college and professional level classes in computer programming, computer science and green building techniques, but somehow public speaking was different in my mind.

My “big break” came, when my mother-in-law, Judy Hollander became the District Governor for Rotary International in our area. She invited me to speak at their local chapter in Attica, Indiana. She even requested my favorite subject…Lewis and Clark. So, with that I began to develop a talk (with a LOT of help from my wife Carmen) on our adventures along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Aptly titled, “The Lewis and Clark Will Never Die Tour” it chronicles our trips to mark the 200th anniversary of their exploration.

You might say my public speaking also started with a whisper…I rehearsed a million times…until I was almost hoarse! Over the course of the next couple of years, I presented the same talk to dozens of Rotary Groups across Indiana. Several even asked me back, so I wrote part two, covering our trips to visit Lewis and Clark sites from their return trip back to St. Louis.

During that time, I was asked to speak at a corporate annual meeting for a local company. They wanted the them to be around leadership and creating an environment of transparency and candor. So…I developed “Everything I Learned About Leadership…I Learned from Lewis and Clark”, an exploration into leadership using the expedition as a backdrop. Hey! Go with what you know, right?!!?

Rivers of Thought - SpeakingOver the last eight years, I have spoken to a wide variety of groups on topics including Lewis and Clark, leadership, Information Technology, the role of the CIO and Innovation.
These groups have ranged in size from a half a dozen to almost a thousand. And. Yes. I. Still. Get. Nervous. But, instead of dwelling on it, I am able to be energized by it and the audience and channel that energy into the talk.

While I can remember each and every talk, there are three that really stick out in my mind. The first was at the annual convention for Mended Little Hearts. a non-profit, volunteer-led program providing hope and support to children, patients and families affected by congenital heart disease. Leading up to the keynote, I was able to meet and talk with many of the members of the organization. I was struck by their passion, their dedication and their caring for each other and their mission. I truly believe I took away more from the experience than they did.

The second was a graduation ceremony for the Excel Center in Anderson, Indiana. As an executive of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, I was asked to speak on behalf of Goodwill at the commencement (Goodwill is the owner and operator of the Excel Centers, high schools for adults who had dropped out of school, but want to come back and earn their diploma). I struggled with what I could say that could have an impact. I finally realized this day was about them and their families. My talk was brief. I thanked them for allowing me to share that day with them, I thanked their families for supporting their efforts, and I thanked the faculty for their dedication to the mission. You can read my thoughts and the transcript of my talk from that day in the post “56 Stories, 56 Graduates, 1 Amazing Night!” Their stories were indeed the stories of the day. Again, I took away more from the experience than they did from my words.

The third and most recent was at another graduation ceremony. This one was for Eleven Fifty Academy. Their mission is to help close the nation’s growing technology skills gap through its mission of creating an ecosystem of coding talent that benefits the individual, their employer, and their community. Students range in age from teen to mid-life and beyond. My role was to tell my story, provide my thoughts on technology careers and then do a bit of Q&A. What an amazing group of students! I had some time over coffee to speak with several of them and learn their stories. Some are just starting their careers, others are re-inventing themselves for a second or third career. All incredibly inspiring. And yes, I think I took away more from the experience than they did!

Final Reflections

You’re getting the idea by now. What I love about blogging, what I love about speaking, is the interaction, the sharing of insights, the learning I am able to participate in through those pursuits. The people I have met (virtually and in person) have made my life richer, and they continue to shape my thinking. I am looking forward to listening, reading, learning and growing through the next eight years of writing and speaking.

I would love to hear from you. What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart?

Connect with me on LinkedIn.
Or Follow me on Twitter (@jtonindy)

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leadership, history, business, #rooseveltriverWhat makes great leaders great? Is there a moment, an event, that you can point to and say “this is when they became great”, or “this is when they made history”, or even “this is when they became presidential”? Is there a catalyst, an event, where they stand up and lead? Meriwether Lewis was Thomas Jefferson’s secretary, William Clark was hanging out in a cabin in the southern Indiana territory (sorry, I HAVE to throw my heroes in the mix, I know they weren’t presidents), Lincoln was a no-named lawyer from Illinois, Benjamin Harrison played ostrich and stuck his head in the sand for the first two years of the civil war, Roosevelt was considered for the head of street cleaning in New York, and Eisenhower was a mid-level officer primarily known for being a good football coach. What happened? How did they end up in history books? Why are we (read “me”) still talking about them 50, 100, and 200 years later?

Over the last several years, I have studied all of the above to one degree or another. Two keys stand out for me: First, the ability to see things in a grander scale, let’s call that vision, though its more than that, as we will see. Second, the ability to engage with people at an individual level, while at the same time engaging with people en masse and to obtain buy-in.

Vision: Great leaders see things that others don’t see.  They see order, where others see chaos. They see patterns and correlations where others see unrelated events. They are more comfortable with a blank slate, than with the status quo. Let’s use Roosevelt as an example (Hey! It IS the Roosevelt River after all!). Here is a man who struggled with the decision to enter public office as the head of the street cleaners in New York (hardly a presidential role), yet in a few short years he became, Chief of Police, then Governor, and then Assistant Secretary of the Navy (and eventually a Vice Presidential Candidate and, as we know through history, President of the United States).

The Navy Roosevelt inherited was not even a foreshadow of the elite force we know today. All of the Armed Services were still decimated from the Civil War just a few decades removed. Yet, instead of following the status quo, Roosevelt saw the opportunity as a blank slate. Instead of focusing inward on our own shores, Roosevelt saw the United States as a rising world power and the Navy as a key component of that rise. Roosevelt developed the Large Policy, policy that defined plans for a canal to allow traffic from the Atlantic to the Pacific, fueling stations scattered throughout the world for new battleships, and the relationships with foreign powers that would have to be built to support this grand strategy.

Yet with this grand strategy, this grand vision, Roosevelt would struggle against the, dare I say, the politics of the status quo. (Parenthetically, I wonder now if it was this struggle against the status quo that many leaders face had a hand in Meriwether Lewis’ untimely death, be it murder or suicide?) Roosevelt continually butted heads with those who wanted to protect the status quo, or who didn’t see the patterns that he saw. This leads us to the second key of a great leader…

Buy-in: That innate ability to engage with some people on a very personal, a very intimate level, to develop a team and have that team follow them anywhere, even to face death (oops, getting ahead of myself here), while at the same time, engaging the masses (if not the powers-at-be) all to achieve the vision, the grand strategy, the Large Policy. canoes

Roosevelt’s America found itself at odds with Spain. Cuba would become the battleground. Roosevelt volunteered. He volunteered to help form the first United States Cavalry…a fighting force of volunteers known to history as the Rough Riders. Roosevelt helped to raise a regiment, not from soldiers and sailors, but from cowboys, ranchers, hunters, and gold miners…his friends from the Bad Lands in South Dakota. Friends that would come when he called, friends that would follow him any where, not because they believed in the Large Policy, or the grand vision, but because the believed in Roosevelt. (It is interesting to note, at the beginning of the conflict Roosevelt was a Lieutenant Colonel, Leonard Wood was appointed Colonel, yet the image of Roosevelt and the Rough Riders is emblazoned on history.)

As Roosevelt’s political career blossomed after the war, he was able to engage the populous. Through imagery (like the Rough Riders, the Teddy Bear, the “big stick”) he engaged with the common man. It enabled him to gain the presidency and it enabled him to implement parts of his Large Policy even against some very powerful political adversaries. Did they see the vision of Roosevelt? Did they see the correlations and trends? I seriously doubt it. Again, they believed in Roosevelt, believed he cared about them, believed he spoke for them.

Great leaders today have these same two traits: vision and the ability to achieve buy-in on a personal level and on a large scale. Where do you spend your time? Do you have a great vision, but struggle to achieve it?…look to achieve buy-in. Do you have a great team, but no place to lead them?…seek a vision, a strategy, a Large Policy. (Again, parenthetically, I believe that is what made Lewis and Clark successful. The names are inseparable in history. Why? Because Lewis had a vision and Clark had buy-in. Together they achieved the un-achievable.)

So is it a point in time? Is it a single event? Is it a catalyst that catapults some to greatness? No…it is having the vision and the buy-in so that the point in time, the single event, the catalyst is recognized for what it is (or created) and leveraged.

#RooseveltRiver is my year long exploration with Dan Miller of Historical Solutions into leadership using the backdrop of history and the life of Theodore Roosevelt. To read more in this series, select “Roosevelt River” from the Category drop down on the right. 

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

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I have a confession.

I am a groupie. I am sure many of you remember the 70’s and the “Dead Heads”, that group of hippies that followed the Grateful Dead all over the country. No, I haven’t been following my favorite rock band but I really AM a dead head because I’ve been following two dead guys all over the country for years!

Over those miles traveled, I have learned about history, our country, and, yes, I have learned about leadership. How these two men were able to lead their men (along with a woman, Sacagawea) across the un-explored continent and bring them home safely  can give us insights today into how to grow leaders, how to create effective teams, and how to create an environment of truth, transparency and candor. In my eBook, which you can download for free at the link at the end of this post, I explore ten traits of a leader using one of the greatest leadership books ever written, Lewis and Clark’s own journals.

A leader:

is Transparent

Many books today that discuss transparency focus on the outward flow of information to the marketplace. Some books will also encourage leaders to be open and honest with their employees. Still fewer books will talk about encouraging those employees to be open and honest with management. I believe leaders must first be transparent with themselves. They must look at themselves without any of the guises of self-deception. I believe the transparency that had been established between Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis laid a solid foundation for the planning of the Expedition. It was this foundation that led to William Clark being enlisted as co-captain with Lewis.

is Honest and Truthful

During the time that the captains were recruiting the members of the expedition they could of painted a rosy picture of a trip of adventure and romance across the country. Instead they were honest about the risks, the hardships, and the dangers of the journey. Today, whether we are recruiting new employees, or launching a new project, or discussing issues, we must be honest and truthful with our teams, our customers, and all of our stakeholders.

is Accountable

Accountability is one of the most difficult traits of a leader. For accountability to work, however, it must be combined with consequences. It is one thing to tell Joe he is accountable for a deliverable. It is quite another thing to hold him accountable by having consequences when he doesn’t deliver. Throughout their journals, especially in the early days of the expedition, there are many examples of the captains holding the men (and themselves) accountable. While I don’t suggest we use running the gauntlet, court martial, or even loss of whiskey privileges (seriously, I would never go to the extreme of denying someone their grog!) today, I do think we can learn lessons about laying down expectations and holding our teams accountable with fair and consistent consequences.

is Patient

With accountability and consequences, comes the fourth trait. A leader is also patient. The youngest member of the Corp was Private George Shannon. Shannon had a propensity for getting lost, not a good thing on a trek through the wilderness. Once while he was lost, he was able to feed himself by shooting a stick out of his rifle and killing a rabbit (resourceful might have to be added to this list). However, the captains were patient with Shannon and trained him. After the expedition, Shannon became a lawyer in Lexington Kentucky. I think, more than any other trait, we are called upon to be patient when others might “get lost” along the way. We train, we teach, we mentor, we do not adjust our expectations, or the consequences of accountability.

Seeks Input

Decision Point is one of my favorite spots along the 8,000 mile Lewis and Clark Trail. It is there, at the confluence of two rivers, the captains halted the expedition to explore both channels to ensure they selected the right channel before proceeding on. They examined all the evidence and made their decision. How many of us have experienced managers that make decisions without gathering all the facts or seeking input from those around them? It can be devastating to morale and team energy, in the best case. Great leaders use the knowledge and expertise of those around them to make their decisions. They also take the time to explain their decisions. Why can be just as important as what.

is Committed

To be successful leaders must be committed to the mission. Our response to challenges will serve as positive and negative examples to those around us. If we explode in anger or frustration, or if we give up completely our teams will lose confidence in us and they too will give up. The journey of Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery has countless examples of being committed to the mission. In fact, they used the phrase “we proceeded on” so many times in their journals I am unable to count them.

has Integrity and Character

Admits Mistakes

One story in the journals provides us with two lessons in leadership. Our captains were not perfect. While faced with the long trip back to St. Louis, the Corps needed canoes. Unable to barter for one, Lewis ordered some of the men to steal one. In my opinion and in reading between the lines of the journals, Lewis had to fall several notches in the eyes of his men. Not only did he order them to steal one, we have no record of Lewis ever admitting his lapse in judgement. It is interesting to note, he doesn’t even retell the story in his journal. Leaders must manage themselves with high integrity and solid character. A great leader will do this in their personal as well as professional lives (those photos on Facebook, may NOT be a good idea!). When we do stumble, or make a mistake, we have to own up to the mistake, take responsibility for the mistake and learn from the mistake.

is Flexible

Throughout the three and half year odyssey, the Corps only retreated one time. When faced with snow “deeper than the trees were tall” while crossing the mountains, despite being anxious to return home, the captains called a retreat. The Corps returned to the base of the pass and waited with the Nez Perce tribe for the snow to melt. They waited almost two months. This showed flexibility (and perhaps wisdom!). Strong leaders must know when to “proceed on” and when to retreat, regroup, re-evaluate and adjust the strategy.

Takes Risks

Leaders must not only be willing to take risks, but we have to create an environment in which our co-workers are willing to take risks. If our teams are afraid of harsh consequences or an explosive boss, we may be leaving significant discoveries on the table. The entire Lewis and Clark adventure was a lesson in risk taking. However, there are several examples, where because the captains knew and understood the mission, they made decisions to accept even more risk. One such time was on the return journey when they divided the Corps into four smaller parties to help accomplish the mission.

Upon their return, Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery were celebrated all across our young nation. The knowledge of our country, the native peoples, the plants and animals was expanded dramatically almost over night. Not only were these sciences advanced, but, as I hope you have seen, so to was our knowledge of the traits of leadership.

Download Everything I Learned About Leadership

If you would like to read the entire eBook, you can download by clicking on the cover.

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Another Earth Hour has come and gone. Did you observe it? I have to admit, this was the first year that I participated.  What? You aren’t familiar with Earth Hour? Shame on you! That must mean you are not a reader of my Rivers of Change Action Alerts J. What? You don’t receive Rivers of Change Action Alerts? If you would like to be included in the email list either post a comment here or shoot me an email.

Ok, enough of the shameless promotion of Rivers of Change, back to Earth Hour. If you observed Earth Hour, please add a comment to the post describing how you passed the hour. If you did not observe it, I would love to hear from you as well…was it because you didn’t know about it, were you at work, or was the NCAA game on TV just too mesmerizing to remember to shut off your lights?

As for us, as I said, this was our first year. The first task for the day, was to identify which circuit breaker would shut off our outside carriage lights (shhh, don’t tell the HOA police). While doing this, I made a couple of interesting discoveries. First, electricians have pretty crappy handwriting. (At least the one that installed our breaker box and identified the breakers did) Second, I really DO need my glasses to read anything. Third, even with my glasses on the print was too small read. So I did what any helpless male would do. I asked my wife to read it for me. Excellent , breaker 25.

That evening, as it neared time for the appointed hour, I turned off the Pitt/Villanova game, started a fire in the fireplace and uncorked a bottom of wine (sorry Laurent, it was California wine) while my wife lit several candles around the house. At about 8:25 a huge thunderstorm hit. (Wouldn’t be ironic to have a power outage right about now?). I dashed out to unplug our garden lights and to trip breaker 25. Oops, not the right one. I don’t know what I turned off, but it was NOT the carriage lights. Frantic now to get the lights off (after all, I had to go dark, I had sent out the Rivers of Change alert to hundreds of people, I couldn’t leave my lights on!) I dashed back in the house and yelled for my wife. Thinking the only thing that would cause me to get so agitated was an impending tornado, a serious injury or a Dolphins loss she came running. Throwing caution to the wind, she calmly flipped breaker 27 and the carriage lights went out. (Damn, now why didn’t I think of that!)

So now, it was dark and just in time, too! The lights were off, the candles were lit, we had a roaring fire in the fireplace and a nice bottle of Pinot Noir and we cozied down in the family room to…

Play The Lewis and Clark Board Game, of course! What were YOU thinking? Yes, there really IS a Lewis and Clark Board Game and YES, we really played it! In fact, at the end of the hour, we were not finished with our game, so we continued until my wife won AGAIN (she happens to be undefeated in that particular game). So for us, our Earth Hour was actually two.

You’ve now heard about my Earth Hour, now tell me about yours. I’m willing to bet you did not play The Lewis and Clark Board Game!

I must apologize to all my faithful readers; I’ve been silent now for a couple of weeks. Frankly, I’ve been stunned into silence by something I read. The Missouri River is sinking. Yes, sinking. In some areas between Nebraska and St. Louis the river is now 12 feet lower than it was 50 years ago, relatively the same amount of water, but the bottom of the river as “sunk”.

What stunned me was this…scientist and engineers are trying to figure why. Really? The word EROSION comes to mind, but what do I know. The article went on to say that the engineers are trying to figure out what to do about it. Really? Another word comes to mind…NOTHING!

Now, I love all rivers, but I have a special affinity to the Missouri River. This River, by most accounts is the longest river in the United States. It begins in the mountains of Montana and carves its way for over 2600 miles to the Mississippi. It is UP this river that Lewis and Clark and their men (and one woman and an infant) rowed, poled, pushed, and pulled their boats in an attempt to discover a northwest passage over 200 years ago. It is UP this river, that I myself, once planned to retrace their steps (or strokes as the case may be) in a canoe. Operative word is PLANNED, until an acquaintance from Kansas City exclaimed, “You are going to do WHAT on the Missouri River? Have you SEEN the Missouri River?”

The Missouri has cut its path across the western United States since the last ice age. During those thousands of years its channel has “wandered” across the plains, especially south of the Dakotas and into Missouri. What I mean by wandered is that it continues to cut new paths through the sandy soil. Lewis and Clark campsites that were on the north side of the river 200 years ago, are now on the south. Sections of river they traveled are now oxbow lakes. During their trip up the river the described countless times when the banks were caving in around them as the river eroded the backs, giant trees crashing into the water. Islands on which they camped on the way up stream where GONE three years later when they returned. They had been eroded away by the powerful current.

Aerial photographs of the confluence of the Missouri and the Mississippi show the color of the Mississippi changing to a muddy brown from all of the sand and silt being carried by the “Big Muddy”.

So, what has changed in 200 years? We have constructed six dams, impounding 35 % of the river. This prevents the river from flowing freely as it once did. This has had huge impacts on the down stream portions of the river. In addition, we have channelized the river by dredging (especially in the 700 hundred miles between Rulo, Nebraska and St. Louis, Missouri. We have constructed wing dykes, which force the water to the center of the channel, and we have constructed levees to protect our cities.

In a real sense, we have shackled the river and no longer allow it to wander. We continue to use its sands as a free source of sand for concrete and other uses. In the year 2000 alone 7.4 million tons of sand was dredged from the river for commercial uses and development.

Now, a sinking river does create an incredible set of complex problems ( imagine a bridge pylon that was buried 16 feet into the river bottom and now is only buried 8 feet), but does anybody else out there see the correlation or is it just me. We have strangled the river, forced it into a channel, stolen its resources for concrete and yet, we are mystified as to why it is sinking?

Now, what do about it? Imagine, if you will, the discussion a couple of kazillion years ago as the Colorado River began to cut its way through the soft rock of the Arizona desert. “Gosh, do you think we should do something about it? Maybe if we divert some of the water, it won’t wash away the village. Maybe we could line the bottom of the river with those big hard rocks and it won’t wash them away. OrOR, MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST MOVE THE TEEPEE TO A SAFER LOCATION!”

So when ARE we going to learn that you really can’t mess with Mother Nature; you can’t REALLY control a river; you can’t really prevent a flood; when you build in a flood plain you are just asking to get wet? My vote is, move the bridges, don’t move the river!

Valley Forge, PA.-The site of George Washington’s famous winter at Valley Forge soon will be home to the nation’s newest power plant. Approval was granted today for the construction of a 250-Megawatt Coal-fired power plant adjacent to the Valley Forge National Park. While the main generating station will not be on park grounds, plans call for four 300+ foot wind turbines and a 400+ smokestack to be located on park property near General Washington’s winter command. Water for the plant will be obtained from the Schuylkill River. Project Manager Tom Jackson, a self-proclaimed revolutionary war buff, states, “I don’t believe the presence of these structures will detract from the historical significance of the park at all. In fact, the steam and exhaust from the smokestack may add to the experience as you envision the smoke from the campfires rising above…”


Ok, now that I have your attention, let me tell you the announcement above is not true. But didn’t it raise some concern? Weren’t you thinking, “How could they do that to such an historic site?” What if instead, I had chosen the Gettysburg Battlefields, or the site of Mount Rushmore, or anyone of our nation’s historic sites? Would that move you to stand up and say, “No!”? What if I told you it was happening in Montana?

 
Over 200 years ago, Captains Lewis and Clark and their team of 30+ men, Sacagawea and her baby were making their way up the Missouri River on their way to the Pacific Ocean. After rowing, poling, and pulling upstream for over 2,000 miles and being away from U.S. civilization for over 14 months they encountered the Great Falls of the Missouri. The falls, while beautiful, were not one cascade as they had understood, but five and were a formidable obstacle between them and the way west. What they thought would be a minor inconvenience of a portage, was in fact over 18 miles and delayed them almost a month while they moved their gear around the falls. Pushing, pulling, and sometimes crawling while they transported hundreds of pounds of provisions in the brutal heat, across punishing prickly pear cactus. It was an epic effort like few others in American history.

 
It is here, at the site of a National Historic Landmark designating the location where the men of the Expedition left the Missouri River and began their toil across the Montana plains, that SME Electric is actually building a 250 Megawatt Coal-fired power plant. The Highwood Generating Plan makes provisions for the wind turbines and smokestack described in my hypothetical story above: they are to be located on and adjacent to the Landmark. In one of the few places left on the 4000+ mile Lewis and Clark Trail that one can still stand and see pretty much what they saw 200 years ago there will now be an enormous power plant, towering wind turbines, smokestacks… and tons and tons of coal ash. This unique site will be lost for eternity.

 
Several organizations are working to halt construction. Some due to environmental concerns, some due to historical preservation concerns, while some say the area just simply does not need the power the plant will generate. Rather than replicating that information here, please take the time to review the links below (I urge you to review the Great Falls Tribune link, it contains some excellent pictures, charts and maps of the area designated for the plant, as well as links to up to the minute news).

 
Links:

Montana Environmental Information Center
Preservationnation.org
Montana Preservation Alliance
Great Falls Tribune
Citizens for Clean Energy

Construction has already begun, but it is not too late to stop the destruction of this piece of our national heritage. I implore you to write your congressmen, your senators and others asking them to step in and stop this project. In addition, please write to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, The National Park Service and the US Army Corp of Engineers.

Richard Opper, Director Montana Department of Environmental Quality
Karen Breslin, National Parks Service

US Army Corps of Engineers – Helena, MT – (406) 444-6670

Welcome to Rivers of Thought!

In this space you will find my musings about sustainable business practices, sustainable lifestyles and general observations about business, life and the world around us. For those that know me, you will not be surprised when I throw in the random Lewis and Clark story, or perhaps overuse a river analogy to make a point. I hope you find the postings interesting, worthy of comment and that they will stimulate some helpful dialog.