Dreaming our way towards a better future

Dreamers in Dream City At the Autry National Center for the American West, a current exhibit features photographs from a just-published book, Dreamers in Dream City, by Harry Brant Chandler. I am one of the featured "dreamers" of Los Angeles in the book and exhibit, included for my work as an activist in transforming our city.

It's a great honor, but much more importantly, it's a reminder that L.A is a city is built on dreams.  But not just ones from the past. We can and are remaking this city today.

It's easy to think that we're all going to hell in a hand-basket, but I believe it is through dreaming -- conscious and shared dreaming -- that we can find our way forward.  

Dreaming is one of the most ecological ways to bring about change because we dream in whole pictures without bureaucratic constraints.  We get guidance from dreams. They remind us of what we need to pay attention to, of what attracts us. And because of that, they provide a special energy for their manifestation into reality.

At times over our three decades TreePeople has facilitated shared dreaming amongst our community's leaders and experts. This process is about synergy...creating something bigger than the individuals involved.  It's not about creating a compromise between opposing forces that ends up with an ungainly creature, a camel built by a committee, but about bringing people together to dream dreams and see practical new possibilities.

About ten years ago we called together a charrette (a planning term of art that means a multi-disciplinary design workshop)  to re-envision LA's landscapes for sustainable living. The book Second Nature compiles the results of over one hundred engineers, landscape and building architects, urban foresters and other experts who came together over four days to dream and create sustainable designs for land parcels typical of the LA region.

This project came out of the realization that Los Angeles had disaggregated plans to spend $20 billion dollars to repair the city - with separate band-aid approaches - to deal with mounting resource problems. Instead of trying to fight all these battles one by one, we provided a place and format for these brilliant people, each a leader in his or her own field, to blend their dreams and their expertise.

As businessman, environmentalist, and author Paul Hawken said in his keynote address kicking off the charrette,

(This) is the process of creating a new and viable path to the future for humanity...This path is one that no single architect, designer, or person can describe or forsee by him or herself. We will create it together, but it will require individual leadership and courage...Can you now imagine a world that really works?"

No individual has that all-encompassing vision, and we won't find those answers unless and until we are able to come together in new ways with our skills and tools. That's why TreePeople held a workshop this summer on 21st century infrastructure, to encourage leaders and experts from all sorts of different fields --  engineering, public health, and infrastructure. and many others -- to work and think and dream together.

The dream we share is ultimately more powerful and more possible than any dream any one individual could possibly come up with on their own.