Are You Asking The Most Important Question?

“When will we learn to askĀ  ‘And then what’ as a matter of course?”

JEREMY CHERFAS
Biologist and BBC Radio Four broadcaster; author of The Seed Savers Handbook.

I’ve swiped the above quote from a great website called Edge (http://www.edge.org/). Its mandate is to: “arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complicated and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.”

I first discovered it about ten years ago, and every once in a while I go back and check it out to see what people smarter than I are pondering. Many of the questions are complex, and some are quite beyond my ken. But the one I’ve quoted at the top stuck with me. It’s so simple and so sensible. As for the website itself, not only does it honour the value of good questions and forward thinking, it also recognizes the benefit of seeking help outside our immediate sphere.

The ‘and then what’ question struck me again this week, while thinking about the events which led to 100 dogs being shot at a Whistler outdoor adventure company. In this tragedy of errors, it seems failing to ask that simple question at the outset is at the root of this terrible case.

“‘We’re going to get a bunch of sled dogs and cash in on Olympic tourism.”

And then what?

Unfortunately, no one involved — from the company that owned the dogs, the vet that didn’t put them down humanely, the SPCA which didn’t do a site inspection, to the man at the center of the storm, dealing with the impact of Post-Tramautic Stress Disorder, seems to have ever considered their decisions and said to themselves… and then what?

Now, we all are sickened by the chain of events, which grew more inevitable with each failure to consider the future. The impact is far-reaching. The company in question is unlikely to ever recover, Whistler has suffered an international black eye, and most importantly, a hundred dogs, for which one can only surmise loving homes could have been found, if the owners had been honest about their predicament and sought the help of the community at large, died in a horrific fashion.

For individuals and organizations this is a sad, but valuable lesson. Hopefully this kind of scenario is something you’ll never have to face. But if it does, and you find yourself considering the unthinkable, please, ask the question. And then what?

Thanks for reading,

Chris Keam