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 Pando Days ‘23 Lineup

It is with enormous pleasure that we announce the Pando Days ’23 season lineup! 

Seventeen community-based projects will be moving into development over the fall term, supported by the full courses, studios, or labs of some 13 Southland colleges and universities. 

We are moving for the first time into Orange County following our spread last year into Ventura County.

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Don’t miss Mark VanderSchaaf’s seminar on Southland sustainability planning, August 24, 5:30, Zoom

Mark VanderSchaaf, nationally renowned regional planner and author of “Sustainability Planning in Metropolitan Los Angeles: An Overview,” leads a seminar on the 13 most important sustainability plans in the greater LA region.

Mark will lead the August 24 Zoom seminar in conversation with three well-known specialists and planners who have lived and worked in the LA region. Respondents include Dean Kubani, founding CSO, City of Santa Monica; Robyn Eason, former Senior Planner, City of West Hollywood, and Andy Shrader, former Executive Director for Environmental Affairs, Health, and Sustainability Policy, Los Angeles City Council District 5.

The event is sponsored by LA’s CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer) Taskforce.

Register now

John Cobb on History and Our Future

We try to sit down with Pando’s founding Chair John Cobb as often as we can to talk about the big ideas related to creating a more sustainable world. This conversation, held over Zoom and edited for clarity and length, focuses on history and its importance to the future of the world.

Pando: Hello John! It’s always a pleasure to hear and learn from you. How are you doing today?

John Cobb: Well, all is well over here. So, what are we discussing today?

Today’s Zoom is all about history – and the place for history in creating a brighter future. It’s paradoxical for us, because Pando is all about looking forward and innovating new possibilities. But it begs the question: where does looking back fit into this picture? In terms of building a more sustainable world, does history matter? Or, does it just get in the way? How does this sound as a discussion topic for today? 

Sure. I’ll begin with my sense of the importance of history. It’s interesting that history has now been extremely marginalized in our educational program. 

I do not mean that there’s no study of the past, but the study of the past is simply in order to have more factual information about the past. 

Historical study, on the other hand, is to understand how we are, what we are, and how we got to be this way. 

Science has little capacity for taking matters such as meaning, value, and purpose seriously – as “really real.” And yet these are the bedrock assumptions of historical thinking. And historical thinking underlies the work any of us hopes to do in shaping the future.

Science promises to give us an understanding of the world as it "really is." But a "fact" is an abstraction about the world, and abstractions – however good – always distort from the whole picture.  

History should be useful in helping us to understand this, and, say, to put modern science into its historical perspective – which means understanding how contingent it is on the large, overarching assumptions of the culture in which it’s embedded. 

But because the value of historical knowledge itself has been undercut, it’s difficult to build this case – because you need an understanding of the historical context in order to build it. That is, you need the tools that have been taken away. 

I illustrate the problem by referencing science, yet it’s obvious that questioning fundamental assumptions – about the way things are done, how and why they are done, and how they are valued – is critical to building a more just and sustainable world. 

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