This was a unique summer here at Earthos. This non-profit normally is engaged with community activists in the Boston area, helping them to accomplish projects from historical walking trails to establishing an Art Farm. Their work has focused primarily on urban design type issues, but these are issues that involve many actors, from engineers to designers and policy makers, to the actual community that will be affected. What’s unique about Earthos is that it is disciplinarily diverse, which allows them to bridge the gap between the uncommunicative and often contradictory methods that various professions use.
Over the last nine years of doing these projects, the leaders here at Earthos have developed a methodology that aims to bring these isolated professions together. The idea is that with a common goal, language and frameworks to use, we can get more people to the table, and with increased communication we can improve the sustainability of our world. Creating this dialogue in the first place at Earthos was not easy! When Earthos started out it was difficult to even agree on how to say things. Some disciplines require the practitioners to use language that is supposed to elicit a specific reaction, while others label this jargon and require practitioners to stick to more precise terms. Some disciplines stress visuals and diagrams while others prefer a well worded explanation. These are just examples of ways that cross disciplinary practice can encounter problems, but they go far deeper when trying to do collaborate on complex issues or projects.
This methodology has worked well for Earthos, and now they are ready to codify it in a book. Hopefully by doing this, they can export the collaborative practice Earthos has reached, to the classrooms of the next generation. That way when they become policy makers, architects, engineers, community organizers, or any profession, they will have the tools to communicate between each other and quantifiably measure whether they are being successful at making a more sustainable world. The book is called Bioregional Urbanism and will hopefully soon be popping up on the reading lists of design classes and planning classes across the world.
So unlike most summers here at Earthos where they are practicing out in the field helping communities, this summer they have toned down the projects in order to focus on writing the book. For me, as an intern here, that has entailed doing a lot of research. In order for this book to be relevant it needs many good examples to use as case studies for practices being done now, or historical moments that something similar happened. It also needs up to date information on things like pollution, and global energy use levels. Those are the types of things that I was reading, and then compiling the most useful and reliable information into memos, some of which will be incorporated into the book.
It was an amazing summer, a perfect mix of productivity and fun. The relatively independent nature of the work this summer was great for me, coming into the office knowing that I would do a good days research was something to look forward to. The leadership of Earthos were all kind and helpful, and I believe I have made meaningful contributions to the team this summer.