Friday, March 11, 2011

From New Orleans to Indy, a tale of two cities. (Act I)

Running a blog on Sustainability is difficult business. All of the content we generate seem to focus on deconstructive criticisms we have towards current practices and regulations. We rant to please and our rant reeks of pleasure in the company of misery. Rarely do we have anything good to report and more frequent are our seemingly irreversible course towards a doomsday tipping point.

There are also rather curious social barriers to creating a unified positive Sustainability Movement through conversation since most of us are so detached form the holistic affairs of the issue. Different people are talking about Sustainability in different ways and they seem to just plainly ignore the each other sometimes.

“I’m too busy fighting for public transit and limiting pollution to care about social entrepreneurs trying to make money.”

“Social injustice, equal opportunity, basic human rights is about the poor and oppressed; food fetishes are for the rich and the bored.”

Or, my favorite:

“What does education has anything to do with Sustainability? We want higher wages for teachers and better how-to’s, nobody cares about exactly what we should be teaching.”

There seems to be an unspoken truth about the inter-connections between these different societal nodes but very few people are talking about how they are inter-related and what we can do with that totality perspective. Yet once in a great while comes an idea re-born form the ashes of a disaster.

BioDistrict v2 from F.Godwin James on Vimeo.

I remember watching what had happened to New Orleans on the Armed Forces Channel in Mosul. I was too busy to care and I did not have the awareness of its future impact on the totality of our situation. Yesterday I had lunch with my old boss Jeff, hoping to gain a little bit of wisdom in aid of our current initiatives. He told me about how the New Orleans’ bio-medical corridor became the visible “under-pinning of the economic future of the city.

I was excited. The first thing I did after sobering up from drinking with Jeff, was checkout the New Orleans’ project. There are amazing amount of information on their site about the whole project. A lot of things we can learn from. The theme of their development is Sustainability.

This got me thinking. A project like this will no doubt attract research money, talents, and business opportunities. Combined with a practical social entrepreneurial philosophy, this type of development can generate creative solutions for our own communities. It will also yield innovations and intellectual property we can export to developing countries to spread the Sustainability technology and social developments.

When I visited China last Summer, I sat down and had dinner with a young lady from one of the four State-Owned Energy Companies. During the conversation, she bluntly told me that China is interested in the US for two reasons: money and innovations. China has been seriously focused on Sustainability, but they are disappointed by the technology development and capital commitment the US currently has on this topic.

That made me realize that if we are to compete in the next phase of this global economy, we have to adopt and develop our cities and communities the way New Orleans has risen from the ashes. New Orleans took special care to tailor their project and Sustainability to fit their unique history and culture. I can only admire and envy the persons who thought of this idea for their city first. But I don’t care to come in second, I just want things to get done. I feel that Indiana can do the same and are perhaps in a better position to do so. Indiana is an agriculture state. Indianapolis has a few solid research institutions that are already shifting their focus onto Sustainability. There are large numbers of abandoned properties we can use to redesign urban farming projects and research food related health and social problem. Food is the next critical market issue and we are in a great position to be the leader of that market sector. We should take pride in that and help develop sustainable solutions to the 9 billion people food problem. This is big business and can help create countless new jobs here in Indy. The benefits do not stop there . . .. Not only do we attract and retain talents and solve Indiana’s brain drain problem, we can also establish a profitable structure for the city to become the next global R&D hub. This is exactly what India and China is doing and we should get into this competition. It’s about time we take pride and innovate united.

I believe in this idea. I think Jeff feels the same way. He wanted to help me research into what New Orleans has done. We've made some plans to visit there during the Summer and I will compile a series of reports and documentations to share with you. I hope to get a conversation started here in Indy and I want to make this happen for the people here. But before we start this conversation, I want you to really take some time and dig through Bio-District New Orleans' website. I hope to hear from you on your thoughts about this idea.

In the mean time, I will be reporting back on the topic of food and the 9-billion people problem. I hope this conversation will continue and eventually be incorporated into a Agricultural R&D District Indy discussion.

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