A few weeks ago I was involved in a challenge to follow the runoff of snow from Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean, engaging in three different outdoor sports along the way. The whole thing, taking place over the course of one day, was filmed for a future segment on The Collective. Initially, I thought I’d only be part of the crew, providing technical assistance and helping with water shots, but the night before I was informed that I’d be one of the three “stars” of the movie, along with Alex from the office and Steph from the store.
The caveat: The first leg involved skinning up the mountain in the dark and skiing back down at sunrise. I’d never so much as had ski boots on my feet before. Not to give too much away, the first few hours were really a comedy of errors, with me hosting multiple “yard sales” in the snow, all my gear scattered around me. My two compatriots were incredibly patient with my incompetence. They were accomplished skiers, and they shared their knowledge with broad smiles on their faces. Read More »
“Fireside chats with Charlie” is what we called our Friday afternoon Social Entrepreneurship lectures with Charles Leadbeater. I was unaware at the time that Charlie was council to Tony Blair, a writer for the Financial Times, and ranked by Accenture, a management consultancy, as one of the top management thinkers in the world. What struck me about this utterly understated man was that, unlike most other lecturers, he spent the entire 3.5 hour lecture periods asking questions. While he was “leading” the class, he barely spoke.
It came as no surprise that before printing his newest book, “We Think,” Charlie posted it online in a Wiki format for everyone to view, edit, and correct. In the four months the book has been online, the eleven draft chapters were downloaded, on average, 35 times a day. He received 91 emails from people with detailed comments and suggestions and about 150 comments were posted on the site. As a rough estimate, by the time the book is formally published in the summer of 2007 the rough draft will have been downloaded about 12,000 times.
In a profession where individual creativity and ownership have dominated for centuries, it is incredible to see an entirely collaborative writing process. As a close friend of Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s founder, Charlie has been a leader in pushing collaborative creation and “user-led design.” “We Think,” the book, has turned traditional writing on its head and further affirmed TIME magazine’s “Person of the Year” selection as “YOU.” In his reflection on his publishing “experiment” and the feedback he’s received Charlie states, “It is a much better book as a result of this process and I now cannot imagine writing a book in another way.”
While sitting through my final lectures of the week, I hardly realized that we were another part of Charile’s collaboration experiment. We found it interesting that our lecturer spoke less than any individual in the class, but I now understand that his aim was for the content to come from within the class, not from the front of it.
You can find out more about “We Think” and post your own comments here.
Our friend Lucas Reynolds recently announced an East Coast tour that will take him, Brett Dennen, and Alo from Virginia to Vermont. We got turned on to Luke’s music working with him on “Finding Balance,â€? a video on The Collective that explores the relationship between the outdoors and the creative energy that fuels his music. The tour dates, along with music from Luke’s CD, The Space Between the Lines, are available on his website.
My friend Brad put this ride on. He’s a little nuts. Around 100 people showed up. I can’t vouch for their sanity, but if you watch this footage of the day, you can decide for yourself. I had coffee at home with my girl, and watched soccer on TV. I felt a little guilty for not showing the love. Then I saw the video.
I confess that I’m powerless to my own curiosity when I cross paths with a unique and inspiring organization. I found one recently that transcends the generations of adventure and science–or should I say it found us? One of the founders, Milbry Polk, invited Nau to the 5th annual “Women of Discovery Awards Celebrationâ€? in New York City. Founded in 1993, WINGS WorldQuest is a nonprofit “dedicated to promoting and celebrating the contributions of extraordinary women explorers.â€? This small organization has created a way to shed light on the achievements of a variety of adventurous and extraordinary women. Here are a few examples:
Inspiration from the Past Annie Peck lived from 1850-1935, and at the age of 44 she quit her career as a Latin Professor at Smith College to become a mountaineer. She was the first to ascend Mt. Huascaran in Peru on Sept 2, 1908–elevation 22,205 feet.
Living in the Present
Inspired by Marco Polo, Kate Harris and Mel Yule embarked on an adventure most of us only dream about. Both recent college graduates, they cycled the historic Silk Route in the Xinjiang region of northwest China last summer.
Number of Kilometers: 4,000
Number of WWQ Flags on Expeditions around the world: 11
Number of minutes in this video about their bike tour across China: 3
Science for the Future
Janine Benyus is a WWQ Humanity Award Winner for being the founder of the Biomimicry Guild. “Biomimicry is a new discipline that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems. Studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell is an example of this innovation inspired by nature.â€? Nature is used as a model, mentor, and measure for solving human problems.
-Excerpt from “Requiem,” a poem from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s last book “Man Without a Country.”
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was a hero of mine, not only for his mastery of the written word, but for what he taught me about art and life in general. Through his profound wit, I learned to take my own painting and writing less seriously. I admired his scratchy drawings in “Breakfast of Champions” and tried to emulate his simple style with my Sharpie. I discovered ironic, less-than-heroic protagonists through his tale of the failed abstract expressionist Rabo Karabekian in “Bluebeard” and realized that there will always be time to create a masterpiece. More often than not, his satires carried a layer of social and environmental criticism that I imagined he would deliver, if spoken, with a wry wink. Vonnegut embodied the kind of sense of humor that I hope I can maintain, even when the Earth’s future seems bleak, and pass along to my own kids (with the help of a calypso singer named Bokonon).
“So it goes,” indeed.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. passed away on April 11, 2007. Poem excerpt found via the Foulweather Press blog.
Last week I had the pleasure of joining several hundred Portlanders to hear author and activist Bill McKibben speak at our colossal local bookstore, Powell’s Books. He began by talking a bit about his latest book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and The Durable Future, which challenges the premises of our current growth-based economy, provides examples of vibrant local economies around the world, and suggests that many of our current social, environmental, and monetary ills could be alleviated if local regions generated more of their own food, produced more of their own energy, and provided more of their own culture and entertainment.
As McKibben neared the end of his obligatory summary of Deep Economy, his eyes brightened and his voice grew excited for what has been his latest endeavor: organizing a nation-wide collective of events calling on Congress to “Step It Up,â€? and cut carbon 80% by 2050. As I write this, 1,349 “Step It Upâ€? events are planned in all 50 states, and McKibben has been garnering national news attention as the event date, April 14th, grows near.
Although significant downtown rallies are being planned around the nation, most events are spread throughout urban and suburban neighborhoods, so participants won’t have to travel far to find one (what’s the point in fighting climate change if you have to burn a lot of fuel to do it?).
Here in Portland there are ten grass-roots events planned across the city. Between a Polar Bear Plunge in the polluted Willamette River, a Climate Change Awareness Bike Ride, a conference on Melting Mountains, and more, Portlanders have the opportunity to celebrate this “National Day of Climate Actionâ€? however and wherever they see fit.
To find out more about “Step It Up!â€? and learn what events are happening in your community, check out www.stepitup2007.org. Hope to see you here, there, and everywhere.
As I sat down at a local conveyor belt sushi joint last week and snapped my wooden chopsticks apart, I noticed the two halves broke like a bad wishbone. In one hand I had a whole stick, plus a good portion of the other one. A three-inch splinter was all that was left to complete the pinch. “Defect,â€? I thought, as I reached for another pair.
But then something snapped in my head: I looked around and noticed 50 people shoveling nigiri with the chopsticks and thought about how this place was always busy. That’s a lot of “disposableâ€? wood. After consuming my weight in fatty salmon, I went home and looked up the impact of chopsticks on the environment. The first sitetold me that these one-use implements eat up 25 million trees per year and that the Chinese government has even imposed a tax on their sale in an attempt to save their forests. My next stop, Treehugger, described how there’s a recent trend among conscientious Asians to bring their own chopsticks to restaurants. It also directed me to another blog devoted to bring-your-own culture that detailed how much of a waste disposable coffee cups are.
With that, I resolved to always bring my plastic green chopsticks to future sushi feeds. And if I didn’t have my own trusty tools, I’d just bare hand it ” a totally appropriate way to eat raw fish in Japan.
Basically, bikes rule. Sure, running needs only shoes, and the tech weenie thing can get way out of hand, but at it its simplest, there’s something about a bike and a spring day that goes right to the heart of the good life. There are lots of crappy things that can make your bike reality a little hellish, but they’re worth the risk. Honoring the good, the bad and the brutal of it all, Filmed by Bike (April 13-15) is a film festival dedicated to the spirit of bicycle culture. Comprised of 90 minutes of films, none longer than eight minutes”brevity being the soul of wit and all”this event deserves a place on your April calendar. Opening night promises plenty of, ahem, interactivity, but the following evenings should be tamer. Keep the rubber side down.
Springtime popped in Oregon last weekend and with it, the double down reemerged. The double down, by the way, is participating in two different outdoor activities in one day. Having just landed a job at Nau, following a brief stint of post-grad-school job searching, I have rejoined the ranks of weekend warriors. Given my new employment-driven time constraints, I have developed a renewed sense of urgency regarding weekend free time.
Faced with beautiful weather and endless Gorge activities, I set my weekend goal on back-to-back double downs. Happily, I encountered an entire town with the same idea. Saturday, I dusted off my bike (literally) for a shuttle run ride and capped the day with this season’s first kiteboarding session. To my surprise 50 other people were kiting out in the 49-degree water and many of them had been snowboarding that morning. That night, at a bar opening, I heard numerous permutations of double downs, road bike/run, mountain bike/windsurf, and on and on…. I knew it was official: The double down was back in bloom.
Sunday morning, staring down the rest of the weekend, I felt extra motivated and bagged the elusive “triple downâ€? of snowboarding/mountain bike ride/soccer game”not to be outdone by my wife who got her own triple down of trail run/road ride/soccer game. Despite being outscored and generally showed up by my wife in our soccer game, I felt great about the weekend. Thanks to fantastic weather and willing friends I packed in five fun activities. And, following three cups of tea and a couple Advil, I managed to make my way back to work Monday morning.
The Thought Kitchen is our effort at collective inquiry and its power to effect change. Have you ever noticed how the party is always in the kitchen? There are more walls to lean on and people are energized by the proximity to food and drink. Well, welcome to our kitchen, where we hope to tap into everything we love about that feeling—community, vivacious exchange, food for thought.