Albuquerque’s people could create a city to inspire all the West

Sometimes it's helpful to imagine the best possible future — for yourself, for your city, for your world. By giving ourselves the luxury of idealism combined with optimism, sometimes we can see how to be practical, in heartening ways.

Albuquerque — this still-beautiful but compromised city, with all its extraordinary talent and imagination and natural wonder — what's ahead for it, in the best world imaginable?

Pragmatically speaking, best worlds come from responding successfully to the most pressing challenges. The challenges ahead for Albuquerque and every major city in the American West are water shortage, water quality and fuel expenses and the rising costs with which they will burden us, including the cost of foods imported from around the country and the world.

The opportunities for us are immense — just as the penalties for not meeting the challenges are egregious.

Because of our intellectual and creative talent, anchored in our artistic and literary traditions, our university and our national laboratories, combined with the glories of the New Mexico landscape, Albuquerque could become a symbol in the West for how to do things right.

We could become a new kind of city: genuinely conservation-minded, genuinely innovative, operating on mostly renewable energy, designing itself with nature rather than against it — a problem-solving city that's not only self-sustaining but also a creative destination for companies and travelers who want to be part of a new way of thinking and the practical successes that it brings.

We'd need only one miracle to start this process going — far-seeing, innovative, intelligent, welcoming leadership. That's the one thing that always has been missing from our treasury of good fortune.

We have the minds, the institutions, the imagination, the physical magnificence, the multicultural hybrid vigor, to transform ourselves from a sprawling waste to a new city for a new world.

But where are the leaders we need to do this? It's not that they don't exist. They do. It's just that they are not standard politicians. Our new leaders will come from the people who elect politicians and who work to keep them on track by constant vigilance.

Leaders for a new kind of city already function in neighborhood associations, water organizations, citizen planning groups, agricultural organizations and progressive businesses that view the future from the lens of pragmatic capitalism — not forcing the future to conform to the past, but doing what works in new situations.

Our leaders will need to be trained by us. We can no longer allow them to run roughshod over us, to propagandize us into inaction, to complicate simple issues to make themselves the experts, or to bore us into complacency.

Albuquerque could become the kind of American city that shows the way into the future — a city that others look up to. That's the path to meaningful prosperity for most of us who live here.

V.B. Price is an Albuquerque free-lance writer, author, editor and commentator.
January 12, 2008