Inspiration On The Eve of History…

Here we are on the eve of history, January 19th, 2009, near the stroke of midnight – galvanized and ready to serve! Tomorrow (or today, for some of you reading this) America will officially swear-in its first African-American President and turn a corner that is an inspiration to all of humanity. Hope and vision and compassion are making a comeback in the halls of our nation’s capital tomorrow, and not a moment too soon. The challenges before us as a country are immense, but the groundswell of selfless service and American ingenuity building behind the new leadership in this country is palpable and awe-inspiring. People everywhere are feeling empowered again and tapping into their own inner sense of purpose and passion for a greater good.

One of the clearest voices in this “call to arms” on behalf of the planet and humanity has been the incredible and visionary Van Jones, Director and Founding President of Green For All. We were lucky enough to see him speak at Bioneers in 2007 and were moved by his impassioned presentation of a green “wave” that “lifts all boats.” Here he is, as inspiring as ever, speaking before Congress this past week:

As if Van Jones and an historical inauguration weren’t inspiring enough, for those of you who haven’t seen it already, here’s a fantastic new project by a company called CH2M Hill developing Solar Potential Maps for 25 US Cities – the first of which is for San Francisco and can be found HERE. It’s worth spending some serious time noodling with this map – they’ve done some major leg-work to remove many of the hurdles standing in the way of a solar-powered future by showing just what’s possible and where in an incredibly intuitive way. God bless the power of Googlemaps, CH2M Hill, and the internet. The other 24 cities are: Denver; Houston; Knoxville; Milwaukee; Minneapolis; Orlando; Philadelphia; Sacramento; San Antonio; San Jose; Santa Rosa; Seattle; Ann Arbor; Austin; Berkeley; New York City; Boston; Madison; New Orleans; Pittsburgh; Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City; San Diego; and Tucson.

Treehugger has a couple great articles on the development of these solar maps HERE and HERE. It’s simply a fantastic idea whose time has certainly come – no surprise, then, that it won the 2008 Renewable Energy Innovation Award.

Finally, we found plenty of inspiration on our YERT travels. Here are a couple samples featuring folks from future YERTpods:

And on today of all days, don’t forget to check out the ultimate inaugural address we caught from our good friend Wes Jackson at the Land Institute here:

Our bank accounts might be taking it on the chin as our national “stuff” hits the fan this year and we face some hard realities, but, who knows, 2009 could be a great year after all!

Happy Inauguration, Mr. President! Here’s to our nation’s future!

-Ben and The YERT Team

PS – For a last tasty morsel of inspiration, check out Mark’s blog about David Korten’s new book below. Best of all, you can pre-order it from the YERT website HERE!

Hot YERT Book Recommendation

One of most notable YERT interviews (for me) that we have yet to share with you was with author and activist David Korten, whose work has been an inspiration to me before, during, and after the YERT road trip. Way back in 2006 I picked up his book, “The Great Turning,” after meeting him during a Green Festival in San Francisco, and was blown away by the way it turned my view of history—and the potential of humanity– upside down. His words cut to the heart of social, environmental, and political issues in an innovative, optimistic, and insightful way that will likely motivate you to engage your neighbors in a discussion of all the wonderful possibilities that he presents.

Recent dramatic failures in the financial industry moved Korten to create a new book that brings a startling new context—and noteworthy solutions—to an otherwise miserable financial meltdown. The book is called “Agenda for a New Economy – From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth – Why Wall Street can’t be fixed and how to replace it.” It has already received praise from another YERT hero (you guessed it!), Van Jones, and I have read enough of Agenda for a New Economy to give it my own personal recommendation as well! This book has been rushed to publication and is available for pre-order from the YERT store (thanks to Amazon ;-), available for delivery after Feb. 3. Please take a look!


Transcription Update!

We’re off to a good start in our transcription efforts– thanks to a small army of dedicated volunteers! 15 active volutneers have transcribed over 10 hours of footage during the last two weeks, requiring about 50 hours of volunteer time. Our most active transcribers are Ange Vesco (PA), with over 200 minutes transcribed, and Dawn Tirschel (NM) logging up over 150 minutes! We have about 490 hours remaining, so if you’ve been hiding your butt-kicking typing skills from us, hide no more! We’d be thrilled to have you join the team– we need 60 active transcribers to meet our goals. Just contact

YERTpod31: An Epiphany of Three Wise Men in Missouri

Snazzy YERT ChicoBags are back in stock and make perfect post-holiday gifts, and they’re free with any $10+ donation! Check them out in the YERT Store.

Dear YERTians,

On the 13th Day of Christmas my true love gave to me…an Epiphany!  OK, so there are 12 Days of Christmas (the 12th being January 5th), but the coolest day of all is the day AFTER the 12th day – January 6th is Epiphany!  It celebrates the arrival of and the giving of gifts by the Magi (Three Wise Men).  We fully expected Missouri, being The Show Me State, to show us some epiphanies, but we had no idea just what kind of hidden gems and geniuses awaited us.  Of course, the first thing Missouri showed us was an ice storm in Kansas City, but here in the heartland, even in the face of the harshest circumstances, a creative spirit of rebirth and renewal persists.  And so, in honor of Epiphany (the day), epiphany (the experience), and the holidays in general, we celebrate three Missouri wise men and their gifts in…

Epiphany / Wise Man #1: When Dutch Elm disease decimated the trees on Marty Kraft’s street in the 50’s, the loss profoundly affected young Marty who saw the wisdom of encouraging diversity in nature. In 1975, following the death of his father, Marty moved back into that same family home and found himself unwilling to mow down plants and wondering "what length does grass want to be?"  Thus began "The Urban Wilderness" – an experiment in how far you can push your "yard"…and sometimes your neighbors.  Even in the sleet and ice, we enjoyed the heck out of Marty’s wonderfully "overgrown" front yard forest – a unique educational tool and a source of peaceful inspiration for many locals in the heart of manicured suburbia.  Marty’s website is full of goodies related to his "yard" and other projects, like the Heartland All Species Project focusing on local food production and natural no-till gardening.  After our visit, Marty took us with him to a meeting of Kansas City’s Environmental Management Commission, on which he serves, where we met Bob Berkebile.

Epiphany / Wise Man #2: Though he would never tell you, Bob Berkebile is the godfather of the modern green building movement.  It is ironic that one of America’s worst structural disasters would give birth to one of the most important revolutions in architecture.  After the tragic Hyatt Regency collapse in KC, Bob found himself questioning the very nature and purpose of architecture, design, and community.  "What is the real impact of our work on the people we intend to serve?"  "Are we improving the planet or not?"  Inspired by this epiphany and his mentor, Buckminster Fuller, Bob spearheaded the creation of the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE) and helped found the US Green Building Council (USGBC), both of which led to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).  Bob’s architecture firm, BNIM, has their fingers in all kinds of great green pies – as the website says, "Deep Design, Deep Green" – and is leading the green rebuilding of the country’s most devastated areas, including the town of Greensburg, KS which was wiped off the map by a tornado in 2007.

Epiphany / Wise Man #3: Finally, St. Louis gave us the eco-creativity mother lode – and another inspiring Bob.  If Bob Berkebile’s epiphany spawned the modern green building movement, then sculptor Bob Cassilly’s spawned arguably the coolest building on the planet when he took a chance, bought St. Louis’ run-down old International Shoe Building for 69 cents a square foot in the early 1990’s, and turned it into the world’s most creative, engaging, constantly-evolving, and fully-interactive work of found-object art known as City Museum. What the rest of us call junk, Bob Cassilly turns into magic.  Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2007, City Museum was recently named one of the 10 Greatest Public Places in the World – and that’s not an exaggeration.  There are no signs in the museum…just an intoxicating maze of caves and secret tunnels and enormous cement dinosaurs and climbable vehicles suspended in midair and ladders and giant slides and a circus, aquarium, indoor train, enormous pipe organ, rope swings, sky tubes…did we mention the caves?…all begging to be explored!  Rick Erwin, the museum’s director, blew our minds with a whirlwind tour – so much so, that we came back for "seconds" the next day, including time with the museum’s fun-loving staff and its unofficial "Ambassador," Charles Whitcomb, who’s been there almost as long as Bob himself.  Remember closing your eyes as a kid and letting your imagination run wild…that place?  It’s in St. Louis, and you simply have to go experience it.  Seriously – GO.

Boy, The Show Me State sure showed US!

Happy Epiphany!

Your YERT Team,

Ben, Julie, and Mark

P.S.  For information about the topics in this video, check out these breadcrumbs!

For context, here’s some interesting background on the often misunderstood 12 Days of Christmas and Epiphany.

Here are some great articles about Bob Berkebile.  The first article traces his personal and professional journey and is particularly good.  (The second article is here). For a fun journey through the history of the Green Building movement, check out the USGBC’s 15 years / 15 stories page.

The concept of Urban Wildernesses may be an idea whose time has come.  In addition to Marty Kraft’s great website, here is an interesting website/blog called the Urban Wilderness Institute dedicated to the advocacy of urban wildernesses and an informative wikipedia entry on the subject.

As if City Museum weren’t cool enough, Bob Cassilly is working on a new project called Cementland – check out this NY Times article – and, yes, it’s what you think it is.  Once you’ve visited City Museum, and you want to hit the other 9 Greatest Public Places in the World, check out the St. Louis Business Journal article here.


YERT Needs More Transcribers!

(6/22/09 – UPDATE: WE STILL NEED MORE TRANSCRIBERS! We originally published this post a few months back, but we still need new transcribers, now more than ever, and now we can pay you if you sign up for at least 3 tapes per week. Can you help us get to Sundance? Send me a note– )

We’re making great progress on our transcription project– tackling a mountain of 500 hours (17,000 clips) from our year-long road trip– but we still need more help! We currently have 25 people signed up to help, but we’re looking for 35 more people to lend a hand. That’s right. 35. This is a big job– it takes about 3-4 hours to transcribe one hour of footage, so we’re looking at about 2000 people hours to get this footage prepped for the editing process!

And we’d like to finish by the end of February.

With 60 people on board, each can contribute a very reasonable 15 hours per month and we’ll cross the finish line on time. By logging all of these clips quickly, we can accelerate the process of getting the film out to the general public– and we all know that our lovely planet doesn’t have days to spare.

Think about it: When was the last time you could powerfully help the planet by sitting down to watch a video?? Now you can. Seize the moment and watch a clip for the planet. For more information about volunteering, please contact Mark Dixon at 415-672-5537, or We’ll chat for about 30 minutes and then get you logging ASAP!

Thanks for all of your support! We’re thrilled with every little bit of it and want to be sure you know that this project would not be possible without your continued support, both verbal and financial.