The San Francisco Chronicle commissioned me to do a "big picture" op-ed piece for their Sunday Review, which appeared yesterday. It's here. The bit with the violins:
Our current generation of leaders grew up with cheap gas, "free" freeways, and abundant land for suburbia, with a concept of security formed by the Cold War. For Millennials, the issues are economic insecurity and climate change, and they're telling us, in every way they can, that they are not as interested in cars. They are getting driver's licenses later in life, and buying cars later, if at all. They are part of why the amount of driving in America rose steadily until 2004 and has been flat or declining since then. It's easy for older people to pretend that their kids are like they were at that age, but the Millennials are not like their parents. Their formative experience is different, and so are their priorities.
In 2040, the Millennials will sit in the power-seats of government and business. Sooner or later, the world, and the Bay Area, will be governed according to their priorities. So in the end, it comes back to one of the great human questions that every ruling generation has faced: Can you listen to your adult children, and honor the ways that they differ from you? Can you see the value in smoothing the path toward the world that they will rule? Or do you want only to slam on the brakes, protecting your own habits and assumptions?
It's not an easy question, but it's the real question of all long-range planning. How Bay Area residents answer it will decide the future of their region, and possibly the world.