The Game of Risk

Posted Oct 16, 2015 by: Amy RothThe Game of Risk

Driving to the ubiquitous kiddo soccer game the other day I passed an advertisement for Trunk-or-Treat. An alternative to traditional trick-or-treating, this approach and others like it endeavor to provide a safer experience by keeping kids off the roads and providing supervision to make treat-tampering less likely. As a parent I understand and respect the drive to reduce risk, especially for kids. But I also realize that reduction of risk sometimes has a cost that must be weighed. Halloween is one of the few (or only) times a year when the neighborhood comes to life and does something collectively. It is a time when you can knock on all your neighbors’ doors and they are expecting you, when you see families and kids that you only catch in passing throughout the year. Although less immediately tangible, these shared experiences create community, providing a different kind of safety.

Evaluating and managing risk is something all of us do every day for ourselves and our families. As basic as choosing to let our kids wait at a bus stop or come home alone, as unconscious as deciding whether to exceed the speed limit when we are running late.

As consultants we are constantly helping our clients manage risk - risk of exposure to hazardous compounds, risk of regulatory censure, risk of litigation. Clients sometimes assume that environmental consultants recommend extensive cleanup to build job security and satisfy “green” leanings. In fact, our job has never been to clean up every site to background conditions. As the true cost of cleanup, including the carbon footprint of the remedy (e.g., electricity, fuels) and unwanted byproducts (e.g., vehicle exhaust, sludge, spent filters, chemicals), becomes more transparent in cost-benefit analysis, significant reduction of contamination is not always the safer alternative. When we are navigating environmental risk with our clients, we strive for solutions that provide safety, but are also sensible and sustainable - solutions that benefit the neighborhood and the larger community in addition to the individual property.