If the crises we face in our environment, the state of our medical, education and economic systems, or the discord in our governments keep you up at night, I hope you find optimism in the following story:
It’s the story of the first big global urban crisis that the world’s largest cities faced in modern times: The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894 (Yes, this was a real thing and that was the name of it).
By the late 1800’s London had over 50,000 horses moving cabs and buses every day. Each one produced 15 to 35 pounds of manure and 2 pints of urine daily. At the same time, New York had over 100,000 horses producing 2.5 million pounds of manure each day.
No one could figure out how to handle all this manure, and in 1894 the Times newspaper predicted based on the increase in population and horses at the time “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”
The crisis led to the very first International Urban Planning Conference in New York. It was abandoned after three days – instead of the scheduled ten – because none of the delegates could see any solution.
Many of today’s challenges look similarly insurmountable. Anyone looking at current trends and trying to battle the inertia, outdated policies or plain bad decisions of many bureacracies, corporations and governments can easily lose hope
So what happened to end the Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894?
Within a matter of years, the entire crisis simply disappeared.
While officials looked unsuccessfully for solutions, Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and other inventors and entrepreneurs were creating the very first automobiles.
By 1912, there were more cars than horses in London and New York. 1917 saw the very last horse-drawn streetcar. The horses disappeared from our roads, and their poo disappeared with them.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” ~ Albert Einstein
Of course – the age of fuel-driven vehicles has created a whole new set of problems. But today, new inventors and entrepreneurs in green energy, health, education and all areas of society are coming up with new solutions at an increasingly rapid rate.
While the old structures die, you can focus at joining the groups protesting them or you can join the groups who are already creating the new paradigms.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde