Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Illahee is a Native American word meaning this place, our country. Peter Schoonmaker shared with Wanderers this morning about his work with the Illahee Foundation on ecosystem planning, focusing on urban centers, and Portland in particular.

Peter's group produces a lecture series, similar to ISEPP's in some ways, but focusing on these different themes. Last year's theme was How Cities Learn (taking off from Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn -- Stewart being one of the lecturers). This year it's Water & Oil (watch for the ads on Tri-Met buses).

Fortunately, Wanderers Dick Pugh and Jim Buxton were present, both "long now" types with an understanding of our place on the geological time scale. We joked about the thin stratum of asphalt and other petroleum based products we'd eventually become, as the world goes on turning.

Peter is on Mayor Tom Potter's visioning committee, aimed at coming up with some credible, actionable futurism for Portland. He finds the process rather plodding compared to Jaime Lerner's fast-paced style, but not every city is as lucky as Curtiba (in Brazil), where Jaime served a few terms as mayor.

Wanderers agreed that roping in more creative types, including Portland's illustrious science fiction community, might be a good idea. Jon Bunce cited Ursula LeGuinn's 1971 novel Lathe of Heaven for anticipating Portland's future (the 1980 made-for-TV version was filmed in Dallas, while the 2002 remake features Ursala's home town of Portland, including light rail).

Indeed, according to Peter, Jaime Lerner likes his planning committees to consist of three main types of people: architects for their design sensibilities, journalists because they know how to meet deadlines, and poet-philosopher types, for their powers of precognition.

After Peter's presentation, I hooked up my wireless laptop to my projector, and screened my OMSI Dome and Dignity Village blog entries, about getting FEDs (Fly's Eye Domes) showcased around Portland.

Although designed for service in more rural areas, FED-style infrastructure draws support from urban control rooms, studios, and classrooms, i.e. is the brainchild of our KBE.

I shared my view that corporate media need only shift gears a little and we'd have some dynamite reality TV complete with exciting product placement opportunities. Politicians needn't be in the loop on this one, which is fortunate, as when it comes to brainstorming potentially positive futures, they're apparently otherwise engaged.

Indeed, I'm flying down to LA tomorrow (after my Winterhaven gig), where I hope to stir things up a bit. Why should this science fiction capital, in a state with a movie star governor, lag so far behind Portland when it comes to intelligently brainstorming about our American Dream? Let's get Hollywood up to speed, shall we? We could use its media know-how.