Rootball is the newsletter of Pando Populus.

Pando unites the people who care most about the future of Los Angeles. Focuses them on the right things. And motivates them. With passion. To implement LA County’s sustainability plan.

The team from Citrus College for Pando Days ’23. Their project: a renewable energy solution designed to augment solar panel energy production for individual home and off-the-grid use.

Pando Days ‘23 premieres recap

Pando Days ‘23 premiere week concluded last month with a series of back-to-back project premieres showcasing sixteen initiatives from twelve Southland colleges and universities focused on helping to meet LA County sustainability goals.

This is the fourth Pando Days season, during which schools dedicated full courses, studios, or labs over the fall term to create actionable community-based projects.

Initiatives developed for the 2023 season run the sustainability gamut -- from a project designed to help make the natural world more accessible to blind people to personal hygiene solutions when water is in short supply, such as during times of disaster. From a visionary look at transportation to planning a lab focused on all things mushroom-related.

There's a project about endangered sea turtles, a pilgrimage along the Los Angeles River, and a tabletop alternative to solar panels. 

One Pando Days project focuses on sea trash; another on shade structures. There's an app that's been developed to make food distribution more efficient for the food insecure and a project on food-scrap composting. Multiple projects address themes of biodiversity, native and drought-tolerant landscaping, and water conservation -- including our relationship to LA waterways.

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A new sustainability plan for metropolitan Los Angeles

Regional planner Mark VanderSchaaf discusses the tension between urban development and natural resource conservation. He writes: 

“One of the toughest regional planning issues anywhere is the tension between urban development and natural resource conservation. This is especially true in Metropolitan Los Angeles where the nation’s second most populous urban area is also the epicenter of the 'California Floristic Province,' the only internationally-designated 'biodiversity hotspot' in the continental United States. Biodiversity hotspots are places where there are many endemic species combined with an extreme level of loss of their habitat due to urban development.”

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“The Temptation of St. Anthony,” Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). Fire threatens to rage over the landscape in a scene populated by strange and eerie creatures. Image courtesy of the Rijks Museum.

Living in strange times

Pando: If I had an artist’s gift, I’d paint our reality today like Hieronymus Bosch painted his five centuries ago, only more bizarre and twisted.

We live in frightening times. How should this affect our work? At what point is it only prudent to give up on change-making and hide under a rock?

John Cobb: I haven’t given that any thought. I think I’d just stay with the world as it went to hell. 

If there are possibilities of helping a city become more self-sufficient, I think that’s very important. And smaller cities probably have a better shot at that, than the bigger ones. 

Frankly, even though I talk about surviving a lot…

Planetary survival, civilizational survival, species…

…yes, at this juncture in my life, I personally have no interest in surviving. I’m ready to go. 

Mary Elizabeth, how do you respond? 

Mary Elizabeth Moore: I think it’s a wonderful question – do we head for the hills or do we stay and do the work we feel called to do, with hope? And I think it begs another question, Why?

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