The IYE Project: 2014

Web: inspireyourenvironment.com
Twitter: @IYEProject
Facebook: Inspire Your Environment

IYE 2014 Statement of Purpose

When I started Inspire Your Environment (IYE), I was living in Tampa, Florida – a completely different environment than the Midwestern upbringing that I was used to. Despite many obstacles I faced there, I had a desire to fulfill a need I observed: I did not find any local initiatives that focused on the education of youth of African descent in the areas of environmentalism and civic engagement. Thus, the need was for sustainable outreach to take place in a community that was overlooked.

IYE’s beginnings

Back in December of 2011, IYE was an idea that sprouted in Tampa, Florida. It took provenance as an environmentally-conscious community engagement blog and project, based on the concept of storytelling and the practice of youth outreach. Now that I am back in my hometown of Minneapolis, MN, IYE has a related but more specific focus: sustainable solutions for the urban environment.

Why I am continuing IYE

The IYE Project will serve as a research platform that will inform the urban community as well as an inventory for personal direction into a specific area of focus for graduate school. Based on my affinity for writing, facilitation, and bridging people to solid information, resources and solutions, urban policy is in the lead. Due to many factors that shape cities, I believe that revising policies for urban planning is essential, especially when they are in cohesion with (and sensitive to) the biosphere.

Because my writing and research under IYE will be solution-focused, each article will incorporate high-tech, low-tech and no-tech sustainable solutions for urban problems within its message. My writings will be accessible for readers without a background knowledge of urban planning or policy, to understand and consider using these solutions as urban denizens.

The IYE approach

My desire is for IYE to pinpoint and examine solutions that encourage an ecologically sustainable built environment that continually produces a high quality of life, and that adapts to become more livable and more economically thriving, through innovation and creativity. Conducting interviews, writing book reviews, and engaging the IYE audience via social media with questions and answers, will help me examine these solutions.

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” It is the task of IYE to reimagine that quote by staying with solutions longer. What guides IYE are two initial questions asked when identifying a problem: 1) What is the solution? 2) Is it sustainable? Identifying problems in the urban environment is necessary. Staying with solutions longer will help investigate the problems on a deeper level. This approach stems from observing how negative stories can often hamper an individual’s spirit of determination and hope. The IYE project will function as an encouraging voice that continually searches for sustainable answers even when the odds seem insurmountable. That’s the message of IYE.

Using IYE as a platform for African-diasporic contributors

Though the work on IYE will be mainly my own, I will endeavor to feature work, especially from professionals of the African diaspora, on the IYE website. I believe that as planners, architects, designers/artists and policy-makers, our insight is invaluable when it comes to environmentally-based urban solutions. At the heart of IYE is the desire and praxis to include underrepresented perspectives in the conversations of climate change, sustainability and ecological problem solving for our cities.

The basics of IYE

IYE is a small-scale, solution-based journalism project. It utilizes both a local Twin Cities and broad African-diasporic lens to provide a platform for storytelling and partnerships rooted in urban planning, with sustainability as its undercurrent.

Through IYE and from a mainly (but not limited to) African-diasporic perspective, I and select contributors will aim to provide physical documentation such as articles, pictures and videos from the disciplines of urban planning, policy, design/art and architecture, to convey urban solutions based in sustainability. IYE can be used to serve as a guide and resource for any individual considering pursuing the disciplines of urban planning, policy, design and/or architecture.

IYE tenets and beliefs

  1. Every urban problem has an environmental solution.
  2. Every individual, including urban denizens from African-diasporic backgrounds, have insight to offer when it comes to urban solutions. These ideas should be shared, they should be valued and even tested for future implementation.
  3. As African-diasporic problem solvers, the real way to make our contributions relevant, is to write our own narratives.
  4. To focus on the solution and sharing that message is one of the most powerful ways that an individual can inspire their environment.
  5. There is a connectedness experienced by engaged and independent learning. Independent learning is a personal choice that is not taught, but is rather experienced.
  6. Considering the living conditions of oneself and one’s community is the first step towards producing a better quality of life for all.
  7. Recognition of the value of coupling two educations – academic and experiential – for personal and communal development.
  8. Spurred on by the first education (academic), the second (experiential) education is manifested when individuals use their skills, expertise, resources and engagement to create an ecologically sustainable urban environment.
  9. Recognition of the premise that an economically thriving and livable urban setting, and upward social mobility, reflects deeply invested community involvement.

My work in sustainability

My understanding of the built environment has been shaped by my experiences of working in outreach in an energy conservation project with my place of employment, working with small businesses and entrepreneurs in neighborhoods with multiple barriers, working with youth in public art, heading a neighborhood walk with Jane Jacobs Walk in Salt Lake City, Utah, and creating a forum around sustainability with community leaders. These experiences also helped me think critically about formulating solutions that provide a better quality of life for all urban inhabitants. My ultimate goal is to continue this work and harness the discoveries I find through IYE, for future projects, and professional and educational opportunities related to ecologically-sound urban planning and policy.

I can’t wait to continue learning.

Africa for Africans

Africa in my heart and on my mind…listen oh: if you are interested in traveling to any part of Africa to turn people into charity cases, I am not interested in working with you ever. If you are interested in providing handouts to Africans, I will never be interested in supporting your work ever. It’s not only what can you teach Africans, but ask yourself, what can you learn from Africa? Yes I believe in the support of friends and allies but trust: Africans will do it for themselves. There is no other choice – we must. Enough of this charity/gmo/handout nonsense. Africa for Africans. 

I believe foreign aid in most cases is akin to welfare: it is an [enabling] agent for dependency. Most foreign aid absolutely operates as a barrier to self-sufficiency. It also indirectly shows lack of faith (or interest) in a persons capacity to problem solve. In a nutshell, it isn’t sustainable. I wrote this status at around 3:45am this morning with past conversations with those who do mission work, or non profit work, on my mind. Like Bryant Terry once said (in reference to low income neighborhoods and food justice), if you are working in these disadvantaged areas and not creating avenues for those that live there to be those non profit directors or CEOs or executives, then you are just playing games. I see many local-based organizations and youth movements in Ghana that are agents of their own progress, and I get encouraged.

When I promote the verbiage ‘Africa for Africans’, I do not mean to imply in any way, shape or form that Africa shouldn’t be a place for other ethnicities and peoples to live and thrive and prosper. What I want to promote rather, is Africa remaining a place for Africans themselves to live, thrive and prosper through our own efforts of educational advancement, entrepreneurialism and cultural preservation.

I have been reading.

I have been reading. I have been reading so I haven’t been writing. And because I’ve been reading, I know that the writing will be better. And I’ve been talking to Takawi. She has the gift of verbally “framing” words, down to an art form. So I’m learning from her, learning how to speak. I may already possess the gift of listening, but that can also improve. Fall is when I was born, it’s where I will be renewed, and it is where I will thrive. I’m looking forward to the change of seasons and measuring my growth, because I have been reading.

The Fall Line

Simple illustration of a fall line. Via Encyclopedia Britannica.

Historically in urban planning, major cities were planned at the head of the Fall Line, where the Piedmont (hard rock) meets the coastal plain (soft/sand) on the East Coast. Consideration of the physical environment, which includes water, was crucial in early planning. This related to water-based power and transport.

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