Thursday, July 19, 2012

bees and innovative cities

Last Tuesday night I attended a combination book event for The Pollinator's Corridor and film screening of Bees in the Key of A. You might ask "What's this got to do with innovation?" There's a heck of a lot of innovation going on in the economic, physical, and social development of small- to mid-sized cities (in fact Lowell hosted the Innovative Cities Conference a couple of years ago). 

The event was at the Spalding House, a Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust property with lots of historic New England atmosphere.

Even just hearing Aaron Birk chatting with Suzz Cromwell before the presentation about Philadelphia and how he likes that there's lots of activism, yoga studios on every corner  --- no mention of bars, late night partying, burritos, or venture capital -- told me I was in for a treat.

Aaron and Suzz before the talk
It was a packed house, filled to the 50 person capacity.  I enjoyed the fresh delicious food from the gardens of MillCityGrows, prepared by the teens from UTEC's FRESH Roots program: beets with goat cheese and basil leaves, mushrooms with pesto, mint water, iced tea with mint ... and that's not even counting the dessert.

Delicious Food from UTEC's FreshRoots Program
Mint water must be a big thing in Lowell. I remember them serving it at the Lowell Folk Festival the same year they were handing out mint and oregano seedlings grown in compost from the festival food booths.

Cities, the environment, bees, vultures, Buddhism, locally grown vegetables, and indie film. Oh my! All kinds of intersections with my interests!
Spalding House Entrance
Spalding house has a great view of the Merrimack River's Pawtucket Falls too. I checked out the Spalding House-Pawtucket Falls Overlook Park before the event.

Pawtucket Falls Overlook
Aaron is a lively and engaging presenter and the book speaks to issues that are dear to me. I kept nodding and wanting to shout "Yes, yes, yes, biodiversity has everything to do with urban life and keeping your brother out of jail! Relevant! Relevant! Relevant!" If there is one thing I'd like to communicate to urban dwellers and environmentalists alike it's that nature is not out there somewhere in the wilderness -- we're in it, surrounded by it, part of it.  The story is set in the Bronx in the 1970s and addresses exactly those issues brilliantly.
Aaron Passed around Copies of the Book while He Talked

His presentation also included lots of images that aren't in the book yet and amazing slides of traditional Nepali bee hunters.  One of the images he showed that's not in this installment of the novel was a beautiful drawing of a Himalayan griffon vulture flying over the city. The desolate city and the griffon vulture were just so evocative of decay and renewal!  Not only did he talk about vultures, but he also spoke a little about Buddhism.  I had to tell him my story about seeing my life Himalayan griffon circling over a cliff side monastery high on the Tibetan plateau.

Signing Books in Front of Old Clock
After the presentation we watched the wonderful short film Bees in the Key of A. The bees and the beekeepers were fantastic. By the end of The Pollinator's Corridor presentation and Bees in the Key of A  if you weren't already interested in bees you would be for sure.

I got plenty of time to talk with Aaron about vultures and tell him my story of seeing my first ever griffon vulture when I was in Tibet.  When he signed my copy of the book, he inscribed the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.

Back home that night, I dreamed of bees and of beautiful soaring vultures.

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