Archive: September 2012

September 25th, 2012 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Innovation | Comments Off

State of the Arts: through art anything is possible

This weekend I had the privilege of attending an exciting and relatively new endeavor called the State of the Arts 2012 Symposium in the Vortex Dome at LA Center Studios.  Held by c3: Center for Conscious Creativity, the purpose of this symposium is to foster creative and innovative ideas from various arts communities that intend to put them into action, and awaken a new kind of future for all of us.

Joining creativity scientists like Dr. Robert Bilder with mindfulness educators like Diana Winston, this event is brimming with possibilities that push the boundaries of what is possible when art frolics with the future. Almost every type of art has a representative at this event. Dr. David Lindsay Wright represents the future of film by combining his international expertise in Futures Studies and filmmaking. Be on the lookout for his newest project, f3, which is sure to raise awareness and cultivate innovation through film on a global scale. Psychologist and  video game  creator Dana Klisanin is cooking up a revolutionary game that turns playtime into an opportunity to make a real impact on the world’s most complex challenges. Cyberhero League  will soon be launching an Indiegogo campaign, so don’t miss your chance to support the development of the game and ultimately, the world.

From video games, to film festivals, to dance performances, storytelling is a big theme throughout the symposium, as most art can be interpreted as a form of storytelling. According to Sandra de Castro Buffington, Director of Hollywood Health & Society, TV storylines can and should be used as a method to reach out to society. Writing television shows with a purpose in mind truly does make an impact on the future.  Hollywood Health & Society uses research and industry outreach to create storylines that portray real world experiences. Through these storylines, writers are able to embed valuable messages  about important health and social issues, oftentimes offering resources and solutions to the public.

These are just a few of the exciting artistic projects that are being born and bred right now to enact real change for a better future. A special thanks to c3 Founder Kate McCallum for her dedication to keeping this stimulating symposium alive- now let’s bring it up to Seattle!

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September 19th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city, the future and you – 2030 battleground for sustainability

This is Part 1 of Chapter 5 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FiVE – Part 1
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

BLOG ONE CHAPTER FIVE

Setbacks and hard times are not permanent. Life goes on. There are as many possible “futures” as there are a range of possibilities and potential discontinuities. The dark clouds will give way to sunshine. The choice is up to you. In case you’ve been wondering, the future starts here. Let’s look at what’s coming next.

Expect unprecedented economic growth to put pressure on resources. Emerging demand will outstrip supply and at the same time climate change will have a greater impact on national and global security. Deforestation, agriculture, urban development and manufacturing have always and will continue to shape the world. If we continue our present journey – if we fail to mitigate the effects of climate change – we will expose ourselves to instability and conflict.

Climate Change is the major environmental force. The emergency management community in the United States expects the most visible impacts to occur from natural disasters. Events like Hurricane Katrina can have national security implications domestically and abroad. And still, we continue to invest trillions of dollars in global urban development designing and building in areas of chronic systemic risk.

Cities will have to compete as never before. Greatness will take money and talent. Talent will attract investment that will create jobs. Companies will locate where the talent is. People and jobs will create the wealth cities need to become great. And the circle will be complete. Right enough. But the human brain is hardwired for speed. We get a kick from the danger, the buzz that comes from going fast. Like most of us, transnational corporations operate on an ethic of unbridled economic self-interest, maximizing profits with little regard for ecological costs. Booming, hard-driving competitiveness  raises value issues. Our system of growth, and the system of nature have collided. What’s clear is that our obsessions are costing us the Earth.

Urban development started around 3,000 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia. Ancient cities were both ‘organic’ and ‘planned’. They weren’t just places where people lived together. They were hierarchies of power and socialization; walled citadels that grew up around marketplaces. Early cities were all about wealth and conquest. Over time, urban economies wove themselves into national and international economies. People became units of production and consumption and grew increasingly disconnected from nature, until now.

By 2030, cities will be a battleground for sustainability. America’s response to the challenge of global climate change will define our ability to compete globally. Without cities, a transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy as a way and as a means for implementing sustainable development, will always remain an aspiration rather than a reality. Solo survivalism will not work. It will take a village, and we each have a lot of learning to do. Transition times will mean stretching and growing in ways we have never had to before. Even now, people are creating a safety net of resilience that will enable our local communities to survive in peace and security.

In the near future, local initiatives will enable local communities to decouple, even to disconnect if necessary. They will settle local affairs in order to go it independently in the event of shocks to the larger system. They will address potential systemic collapses in the industrial supply system, everything from medicine to food to cars. Think about it. The production of products and services that make our economy run is constructed by a global network of suppliers all over the world – even in unstable regions. An accident or political problem in any number of countries could be disastrous. That’s the risky side of globalization. When one link in that chain is broken, there is no fallback. If and when push comes to shove and communities lose the ability to trade with each other, there will need to be a framework in place to survive. Here is the trick question – how can local communities become both locally more self sufficient, and fully plugged into the beat of the global economy, simultaneously?

Future national security will be a complicated challenge. Great cities will be smart and innovative, committed to proven solutions. Industry clusters will give cities a competitive advantage when it comes to economic development and business attraction. But for clusters to sustain a long-term advantage, research will be necessary. The re-birth and revitalization of American cities will take universities and the young minds they produce.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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September 18th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | Comments Off

A challenge to Chamber of Commerce

Today I had the privilege of addressing the Council of State Chambers as they gathered at the Coeur d’Alene resort in Northern Idaho. This organization consists of executives from each state Chamber of Commerce. It was a great opportunity to share my view of future trends and issues and in particular to bring to them my concerns about the challenge we have in the United States to rebuild an economy that begins, once again, to generate a regularly increasing standard of living for the middle class.

As readers of this blog know I’ve been writing about this challenge for a while, in particular since I addressed it in my 2006 book, Turing the Future Into Revenue. It has been thirty years, nearly, that the middle class has seen their incomes flat-lined, with a few good years here and there. This is in contrast to the years 1946 to the middle 1970’s, when the U.S. economy built the greatest middle class ever. Now four forces work together to make it very difficult to recreate those years – technology, global labor competition, public policy, and a national values shift.

A high-tech, information intensive economy tends to drive wealth toward smaller groups of people. Competition from global labor holds back wage gains. Public policy beginning in the 1980s has tended to favor the concentration of wealth. And recently I’ve been thinking that there has been a values shift along the following lines. There was a time, I think, when people went into business to do something great, and if they got wealthy that was a by-product. Now I wonder if the order has been reversed, and people go into business to get rich, and if they do something great or worthwhile, that is a by-product. I might be wrong about this, its just an observation on popular culture, but I think I may have something.

Bottom line is that the Chamber execs were very receptive to this challenge: how do we re-create the conditions to once again build a larger middle class whose incomes go up on a regular basis. I think it can be done, even in today’s world, which is admittedly different than the post-war period. But this, I think, is the great economic challenge today.

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September 17th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city the future and you – being real

This is Part 4 of Chapter 4 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FOUR – Part 4
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

We can do nothing to change the past, but we have enormous power to shape the future. Once we grasp that essential insight, we recognize our responsibility and capability of building our dreams for tomorrow and avoiding our nightmares.

The new wave of sustainability is strategic and opportunity driven. Knowing that and doing something about it are two different things. We can talk all day about urban agriculture and community forestry but our brains see what our brains want us to see. It likes to make things up. Our minds are complex and are often our own worst enemies when it comes to being happy.

Really. Our own brains that we know and love deceive us into thinking something is right when it is really wrong, that we’re in love when we’re not, that we’re happy when we’re really not. Recognizing and debunking the traps our mind leads us into is essential to realizing any lasting happiness. And when it comes to sustainability, our minds often try to trick us into thinking we would be happier doing nothing.

We imagine a laid back life of leisure, deceiving ourselves into thinking this kind of lifestyle makes us happy. The truth is, “chilling” can lead to idleness and that can lead to boredom and depression. We are industrious, creative beings by nature.

We need challenge and accomplishment to be happy. But the deception doesn’t stop there. The mind tricks into thinking we’ll be happy if we get the right job or the right house or the right car or whatever. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with wanting better things, but things don’t automatically make us happy. The high they create is temporary high. It wears off. Lasting happiness is a bottomless pit that can never be filled.

The mind never gives up. 24/7 it tells us lots of things are beyond our control. And the media doesn’t help matters much. The way crime and terror is sensationalized in the news can lead us to think that bad guys are everywhere, around every corner. The point is crime and terror are overrated. We can and should do something to change the world and not always fro selfish reasons.

Forty years ago, Chattanooga, Tennessee was one of the most polluted cities in the United States. Air pollution was so bad that cars had to drive with their headlights on in the middle of the day. Men who worked downtown had to bring a change of shirt to wear after going out to lunch because their shirts turned gray from walking outside mid-day. It was a harsh national indictment of a city already plagued by a faltering economy and racial tension that prompted the newly-formed EPA to do something about it. The EPA allocated literally billions of dollars to downtown redevelop the cities downtown. Thirty years to plant 10,000 trees downtown, but Chatanooga came out on top.

We have the power to shape the future. Cleveland is doing just that, embracing urban agriculture. The city has created an “urban garden district”. Land designated as part of the district can’t be rezoned for another purpose without a public hearing. That’s a huge step forward. Things can get complicated when it comes to raising farm animals in the cities. Cleveland’s code allows all livestock with one exception, cows aren’t allowed in residential neighborhoods. Even Seattle permits urban agriculture. But for that city, it’s more of a quality-of-life issue than a strategy for urban renewal.

P-Patches – neighborhood gardens – have existed in Seattle for forty years. But as cities grow in population and land coverage, urban agriculture is only part of the bigger picture. Community forests are another part of what a healthy and sustainable living future really means. At the interface between people and the built environment, community forests are already everywhere in every city; there to provide economic and social value.

You do not know what tomorrow may hold. As for America’s future, assumptions that the best days are over may turn out to be wrong. One day we may all live a new American dream; one of justice and peace and equality for all. Don’t be discouraged. Success is just around the corner for us. Colonel Sanders didn’t start franchising his KFC restaurants until he was 65, forty years after he started serving chicken at his little service station. Never let your mind trick you into giving up.

There is another chapter ahead. Keep moving forward and you will come to a chapter that will pull it all together and make sense of it all. America, the future is all up to you.
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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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September 16th, 2012 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Millennial City | Comments Off

The city, the future and you – urban farming

This is Part 3 of Chapter 4 of our book on the future of cities, being written with  Dennis Walsh. Our plan is to publish a new book blog nearly every day for the next couple of months. We will publish them both here on futurist.com and on dothefuture.com. Later we will compile the blogs into an e-book.

We are debating the eventual title. We started with two choices: “Downtown” and “Shine…The Rebirth of American Cities.” Which do you like? We hope you will find the subject of interest and follow this book in serial form. A reader has suggested, “City Transformation?” So far, “Downtown” with a subtitle is leading. What do you think?

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CHAPTER FOUR – Part 3
by Dennis Walsh and Glen Hiemstra

A society, economy or country is neither great nor successful simply because it amasses the most wealth. It’s not always about money. Health is wealth as well.

Cultural endowments like architecture, streetscapes, and historic sites are considered important economic resources in cities around the world. The World Bank finances heritage conservation. Projects are designed to increase city livability by preserving streets and neighborhoods built at a human scale. By preserving their heritage, cities create a unique sense of place, and that ironically attracts investors.

Child obesity has grown to epidemic proportions in this country. Children need access to safe outdoor places, especially children who live in low income neighborhoods. A few years ago, first lady Michelle Obama introduced the Let’s Move Outside! initiative to solve childhood obesity within a generation by encouraging families to get active in nature.

The Outdoors Alliance for Kids recently released the “America’s Great Outdoors” report with input from more than 100,000 Americans. The report recommends increased Department of the Interior investments in their “Youth in the Great Outdoors” initiative including support for their “Trail to Every Classroom” professional development program for teachers. Partnering with communities, the Alliance works to improve urban parks and to provide outdoor opportunities where most Americans live. The key benefits – 6.5 million jobs created every year from outdoor activities together with the obvious health benefits of spending time outdoors.

Isn’t it true? Everything old is new again. Across the nation, urban gardens and farms are sprouting on empty lots, parkland and in schoolyards. It isn’t the first time U.S. cities have ventured into the agricultural landscape. It’s happened before during major economic downturns, and the 20th century’s world wars. 20 million World War II victory gardens produced nearly half of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. When the war ended, victory gardens disappeared.

It’s well worth the effort. Cities are embracing agriculture not only to combat hunger and air pollution, but also to make themselves healthier and more sustainable. Regardless, most city zoning doesn’t recognize agriculture. Urban growers and agricultural businesses are waiting for the law to catch up while cities scramble to update ordinances to regulate and even facilitate urban agriculture. Zoning rules are tricky. Urban farms can’t use chemical fertilizers and pesticides like industrial farms, so organic farming is common.

In a 2010 study, “Growing Food in the City: The Production Potential of Detroit’s Vacant Land”, researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing conclude that urban agriculture could supply Detroit with more than three quarters of the vegetables and almost half of the fruits to meet the cities needs.

There are more than 400 community gardens and farms operating throughout the city. Most exist outside of the law because Detroit zoning doesn’t recognize agriculture as a permitted use. That is an unintended consequence of state laws designed to protect rural farms from urban sprawl.  In the mid-range future we expect to see development of high-rise urban agriculture, multi-story buildings that combine living and working spaces with entire walls and terraces dedicated to commercial scale agriculture. Such concepts have become popular in architecture design contests, and before long the first real development is bound to be attempted.

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[Glen Hiemstra is the Founder of Futurist.com, and curator of Dothefuture.com. Dennis Walsh is a sustainability futurist from Canada best known for his work as the first publisher of green@work. Contact us through futurist.com]

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