Friday, January 29, 2010

Importance

(Main Interior Building - where I work - Circa 1936)


I work in a big bureaucratic Department in a big bureaucratic Government, and I'm usually fine with that. Sure, applying for a job, getting your HR paperwork processed, and trying to do anything new is difficult, but what most people don't realize is that there was a purpose for compartmentalizing the government. When you are managing a workforce of 70,000, like Interior, it makes sense that there are rigid divisions and rules for what every piece has to do in order to make the whole things work. Even the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service are called bureaus. But all this protocol and procedure can make doing actual work within the Government seem a little removed from what you really think you should be doing, which in my case is somehow making our planet and land a little better.

But sometimes a crack breaks through that big bureaucracy, and the most lucky and diligent employees can see the light, where abstract policy papers meet the real world. This week I got to take a peak through that crack and it was cool. Eventually I am sure I will get used to the idea that something that I produced might make a small difference, but for now it is new and fun. In this case it was a few words on a page that were based on a paper that I played a minor role in writing, but those words ended up being filtered up through Interior's chains of communication and were spit out the other side into the world of media, ending up in the New York Times. My small contribution in the form of a list of talking points on Oil and Gas Leasing at Interior showed up in THE major newspaper in the United States, of course after being packaged and refined by the actual communications experts, but still amazing and humbling. And this entire process took 2.5 days.

So I had a good week, where my little effort might have shed some light on how readers of that article view a very important issue. While not all of what I write on the variety things that Interior does to manage public lands, protect endangered species, and address climate change will make it outside of the well-intentioned bureaucracy, just knowing that it is possible, and I can be involved, is enough.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2010 and Resolutions

It's a new year and instead of giving up something or trying to better my health, I've decided to pick up some old habits and get back into reading and writing. The reading is going so-so. I've read a few books, with a couple more waiting for me at the library card - which I will be able to pick up as soon as I actually get my library card. I've also joined a book club, which I am told will meet soon.

Part two of my resolution is to start this whole journaling thing again. I guess I thought that my life in DC would not be as full of stories and encounters as my life in Belize, but in many ways it is. My original goal was to work this particular site around service, and I will often bring it up, but I think I am going to stick to my traditional free form and goal of keeping it short.

So, in this my new and foster city, a big thing happened one year and 3 days ago. But it was a big day for me too. On the same day that my now boss's, boss's, boss was sworn into his new job, I was sitting in the Seattle Federal Building filling in little bubbles on a test sheet. Distracted by the knowledge that I was missing out on watching an amazing piece of our Nation's History on TV, I had no idea what that test would mean. For it was the outcome of that one test that places me right here, right now, in the thick of it. And I must remind myself everyday at my good forture (and my ability to put words in the right order on a page), because life really is amazing.

This week I was sent out to the National Conservation Training Center, managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service, for a Workshop on Ocean Policy. Yes, Interior does work with Oceans, and now I know all about it. What I didn't realize before I went out there is that this meeting would be attended by some very important people who do some very important things, and I was quickly humbled by the level of expertise and political power. Nothing like having to do group activities with the person reasonable for managing all the offshore oil and gas activities in this country. In any case, during this workshop/retreat at this amazing facility out in West Virginia, I had a chance to meet people who had been working their whole lives on issues that I am only beginning to understand, from protecting the Dry Tortugas National Park off of Key West to developing offshore wind energy. From these interactions I gained a real understanding of what service in the Federal Government can be, a devotion to what you are passionate about, what you know is right for the public and the environment, despite the ebb and flow of political will. Very inspiring and I can only hope that I can have that same energy how ever many years from now.