Upward spiral

Jerry —  November 13, 2011 — Leave a comment

About a year ago, I watched two videos within days of each other. Their cumulative effect gave me an important aha! moment.

The first was recommended by Arthur Brock during a really interesting conversation. He warned me that the video quality was poor, and boy, is it ever: picture bad VHS with weak sound, and the content is a bearded fellow who is waxing philosophically about nature. I almost tuned out, till I tuned in. Then I started hearing how Paul Krafel went around the Northern California hills near his home with a trowel and some awesome groundrules, which helped him heal the landscapes with simple, steady effort. Here’s that video.

The second video I happened across a few days later. It was a ten-minute segment of an hour-long documentary about the Loess Plateau, a part of inland China the size of Belgium and composed primarily of a fertile but very erosive soil called Loess.

The documentarian, John Liu, visited this area over a ten-year period. At the start, the area is dusty and brown; its residents are poor and leaving. Then, at a scale completely different from Paul Krafel, the local government uses principles similar to Krafel’s to heal the countryside. Here’s the whole documentary, so you can see for yourself how that story ends.

Seeing the second film got me to understand the first. Both together got me thinking two big things:

  1. What are the groundrules they were using, and can they be generalized?
  2. What would it be like to work in the world that way all the time? To create upward spirals wherever you go?
That’s the inspiration for this notion of Upward Spiral, which we’ll be revisiting here often.
Then I started noticing more initiatives like those that had inspired me.
Listen to Andy Lipkis of TreePeople in LA describing how he got different agencies to start thinking and working together. Note that he also helped reconnect communities in the process.

In the 70s and 80s, the city of Curitiba in Brazil healed many different problems it faced, while spending no money — it had none. The one-hour documentary A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil is excellent. Unfortunately, this trailer isn’t nearly as informative.

One last example (for now), and one I’m less enthusiastic about because the time span is so short that I find the results hard to believe. It’s Willie SmitsTED talk, about healing a piece of Borneo, improving the community’s economics and creating a safe place for orangutans.

I’d love to hear about other inspiring examples.

Jerry

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