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Secretary of the Future

How to future-proof America’s buildings

David Brancaccio Mar 3, 2016
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The Chrysler Building in the background as steam rises from a steam pipe on Lexington Avenue in New York March 4, 2015 as warming temperatures start to melt snow. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
Secretary of the Future

How to future-proof America’s buildings

David Brancaccio Mar 3, 2016
The Chrysler Building in the background as steam rises from a steam pipe on Lexington Avenue in New York March 4, 2015 as warming temperatures start to melt snow. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
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This election year, Marketplace is casting its eyes toward the future, asking how the country can address long term opportunities and threats — the ones that don’t fit into a single federal budget or election cycle. We’ll imagine and ask you, if the next president were to appoint a Cabinet member to worry about future generations, what would be job one? Got an idea? Tell us here


In his last in-depth broadcast interview, the late writer and social critic Kurt Vonnegut observed, “I’ll tell you…one thing that no Cabinet has ever had is a Secretary of the Future, and there are no plans at all for my grandchildren and my great grandchildren.” 

Since then, his idea has bounced around the internet, never quite developing into a fully-fledged meme. We have a Secretary of Commerce, of Labor, of Defense. Why not a Secretary of the Future to help politicians think harder about how today’s actions might play out in 10, 20, 50 years? If it sounds weird, it’s not. Some big corporations already have them  they are called futurists or sometimes the shingle on the door says, Chief Sustainability Officer. 

Elizabeth Heider is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Skanska USA, one of the biggest construction companies in the country. She joins Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to discuss how she thinks ahead and what it means to “future-proof” her business. Click on the audio player above to hear more. 

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