Sunday, September 25, 2011

Oh the Interconnectedness of Things...

One of my favorite things to do when I feel my productivity slipping at work is to take "impulse walks." I just ride the elevator down to the first floor and walk outside. Although I like to think I don't have a destination in mind, I'm usually drawn directly across the street to Rich's Cigar and Magazine Store on SW Alder street in downtown Portland. This was the case this past Friday when I needed a break from staring at my computer screen on a beautiful fall day.

I love walking in to Rich's, it reminds me of the days when men in my grandfather's generation would smoke cigars and read the newspaper while getting there shoes shined. (Not that I remember those days) The shop smells of sweet pipe tobacco and has over 2500 periodicals on its shelves. I bought the New York Times and found a nice bench to sit on in the sun and took an hour reading through the paper.

While I was sitting at my desk after the break, my colleague walked by and noticed the NYT business section,  picked it up and excitedly asked me to copy an article on the Spain's Banking Mess for him and we got talking about the piece. Not immediately understanding his interest in the story, he began telling me me how it connected to some of his side work in his home country of Mexico and I soon realized how it related to the focus of my newly formed year long team project at Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI).

Cabo Pulmo National Park on Mexico's Baja Peninsula in the Sea of Cortez is the only hard coral reef in North America and one of the only if not THE only coral reef system on the planet that is growing. Between 1999 and 2009 marine life at the park increased by 463 percent. This is in large part due to the fact that commercial and sport fishing was banned in this region over a decade ago along with a strong local culture of conservation. 

Cabo Pulmo is located just 60 miles north of the epicenter of tourism in Baja, Los Cabos and is being eyed as Mexico's next biggest development site. A Spanish development company called Hansa Urbana is planning 27,000 rooms (18 hotels), two million square feet of commercial space, two golf courses, a private jet port, a desalination and water treatment plant, and a marina for 490 boats.  Hansa Urbana and this development are backed by a Spanish bank called Caja de Ahorros del MediterrĂ¡neo which like many of the banks mentioned in the NY Times piece is bleeding money due to bad mortgage investments and loans as well as drastically falling property values and is on the verge of collapse.

According to the website for the organization WiLDCOAST, Fay Crevoshay, Communications Director of WiLDCOAST, recently traveled to Spain and learned about Hansa Urbana’s projects and investors and said, “We found out that both, Hansa Urbana and the Caja de Ahorro del Mediterraneo (CAM), owner of 30 per cent of Hansa are technically broke. And that Hansa has a long history of building failed projects that destroy beautiful coastal areas." 

According to my colleague, the development company still plans on moving forward with the planned resort city in large part because the Mexican government has not said no due to the culture of tourism development in Mexico. He is currently working with an international team to shed light on this development, the negative impacts that it would have on this very important ecosystem, and the connection that Spanish banks have with business culture in Mexico and coral reefs in the Sea of Cortez.

Right before I got up to go on my impulse walk last Friday, before I walked across the street to Rich's and bought the NY Times, I was online reading over notes from my team project at BGI which is focused on tourism. It was because of this that I got up to clear my head and refocus on work so that I didn't let down my coworkers by not being productive and focused. Little did I know that my interests and work outside the office would align so closely to that of one of my colleagues.

We often attempt to work in silos and compartmentalize the different aspects of our lives. This conversation reminded me of the interconnectedness of things and the importance of seeking out connections that might not be apparent or seemingly relevant. It also justified my impulse walks and serves as a nice little reminder that enrolling at BGI was a good idea.

More on Cabo Pulmo, Sustainable Tourism, Management Culture, Ideation, Interconnectedness, and much much more to come...