Colonel Mark "Puck" Mykleby awaited an eager crowd of students and faculty on Wednesday afternoon as they prepared for his strategy toward a better, more sustainable future for the United States and how he believes Auburn can play a part in the role.
Mykleby, retired Marine and co-founder of Long Haul Capital Group, presented his co-authored book, “A New American Grand Strategy,” and his take on the future of the United States to kick off The Office of Sustainability’s inaugural Sustainability Speaker Series.
He began his talk by asking the audience to suspend previous notions of sustainability, particularly with its association to "green.”
“Get rid of the green stuff,” Mykleby said. “It’s more than green. It’s an organization model with rich opportunity. … You have to think more expansively."
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
Mykleby told his audience to think in bigger terms because when people think in bigger terms, they have to follow with a big movement and big actions.
After spending more than a quarter of a century in uniform, Mykleby said he won’t ever apologize for the United States, but he is done making excuses for it. During his presentation, Mykleby posed a question to his audience: "What is our cause today?"
“It looks like the cause we have is just to preserve the status quo, and that scares me,” Mykleby said. “In any ecology, the only thing that subscribes to maintaining the status quo is a monoculture, and monocultures wither and die.”
Mykleby said people need to start caring for the cause of the United States. He said simply stating what we stand against will no longer be efficient in the 21st century.
“We have to come to grips about what we’re for," Mykleby said. "When you’re talking about our economic condition, fiscal condition, social condition, political condition or just our physical condition, the United States was not trending in a positive way.”
He affirmed that the only discipline that can take on the cause of an entire nation is this grand strategy of sustainability.
“America needs a new story for the 21st century," he said. "We’re the land of opportunity. It’s time we start acting like it.”
Mykleby argues the United States has become too fixated on its business models and strategies of the past. He criticized these models from WWII and the Cold War for being too obsolete and simply unable fix the problems at hand or serve the human condition.
“Remember that our purpose for being here is to improve the human condition," Mykleby said. "We have a moral responsibility not only as citizens but as human beings to improve the human condition. That’s what sustainability is about.”
Mykleby indicated that most want to argue the challenges facing the United States are other countries such as China, Iran or Russia, but he pointed his audience in a different direction.
“I’m here to tell you today that we’re facing the big, massive, slow-moving challenge that I called global unsustainability,” he said.
According to Mykleby, the current system is falling apart due to extreme macro uncertainty, an obsolete 20th-century economic engine and political dysfunction. These things work together to make the system susceptible to shocks, particularly climate change and economic turmoil.
However, rather than taking stock in these problems and designing a new economy like the United States has in the past, Mykleby said the United States has simply “double-downed” on the old economy, expecting new results from a superseded strategy.
“We’ve got short-termitis,” Mykleby said. “Just expecting progress that won’t come.”
Mykleby said the way forward comes from sustainability and the large pools of opportunity presenting themselves.
“If you start looking at sustainability as an organizing logic, you start seeing an opportunist’s way out,” he said.
Opportunities are abundant in the demands of the 21st century if the United States would acknowledge them, Mykleby said. The top opportunities presenting themselves are walkable communities, regenerative agriculture and greater resource productivity. He called these opportunities “historic” and voiced the need to capitalize as quickly as possible.
Currently, the United States' economy focuses on retail consumerism and financial services, which Mykleby considered the biggest problem. Rather, he said, the U.S. should focus on these three big areas of demand. From studies, a focus on these three key points will boost the economy to a new high.
“We’ve got to do what we used to do,” Mykleby said. “We have to create a new industrial ecosystem. It’s not scary stuff, we’ve always done this, and we do it the American way with market forces guiding us to develop new business models so current business models don’t become blockbuster business models of the future.”
By focusing on creating new and taking the opportunities presented from developing crises, Mykleby believes we can fundamentally restructure the status quo, but he urged students and citizens to take stock in the issues personally.
“Something for young people," Mykleby said. "The future is in your very, very capable hands, you know. We’ve got the problem, let’s start talking about what we can do about it."
He voiced for a community design for the future, which will allow citizens to leave their resident status and become citizens again. Mykleby said this contributes to society and takes on the big challenges that so frequently have been left to Washington.
“If we want to get to the good place, we have to fix our way," Mykleby said. "The world that you young adults see is going to be based on what we do or what we don’t do.
Mykleby said people can do well by doing good without kicking mother nature to the curb, joking that she kicks a lot harder.
Mykleby focused on the Preamble in the final minutes of his discussion.
“Those words in that document were designed for a specific reason," he said. "They establish our obligation to America for the future generations … we are meant to take action in all of them.”
Mykleby said the role of citizens to keep up these actions will require “constant tending and vigilance” similar to sustainability.
“Sustainability isn’t an in-state condition,” Mykleby said. “It’s going to require constant vigilance and constant tending. I can think of no other cause for the United States that is worthier of our future generations of America.”
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman