Sunday, July 17, 2011

From Russia with Love

This week saw the economies of scarcity – manifest in the Bretton Woods denominated (and now indicted perversions of) ‘promissory notes’ – teeter ever closer to the edge of their own demise. And we saw the soothsayers scurrying about in their frantic, ghoulish orgy of empty deferral as they rushed to find yet another potion to push back the hands of time (or defer the inevitability of accountability). No August 2 fix – neither by Democrats, Republicans, nor Tea Swillers – will alter the reality that the current system of disembodied consensus irresponsibility is irreparably damaged and is ripe for transformation. So, this post is NOT about the economy of the past but the agents of transformation. Specifically, this post is about a few great people who are working to transcend the requiem of scarcity into the anthem of abundance.

Years ago, I met Ken Dabkowski who, at the time, was working at The Arlington Institute. Tireless in his dedication to take the visions of TAI’s founder and render them accessible to a larger community, Ken struggled to find a path to help humanity wake up from the discordant stupor of present illusions. As TAI downsized, I invited Ken to sojourn with M•CAM for a season while he found a meaningful path to engage his passion and his destiny.

I can’t say I know, with any precision, where we are in that process but what I can say with absolute certainty is that Ken has found a path to render visions into reality. One year ago, Ken and I spent several weeks in Mongolia. Traveling from a camel herder nomadic community in the South Gobi to the highlands of Arkhangai – the ancestral core of the great Khan Empire – we noticed that, no matter where we went, the landscape was punctuated with old Soviet installations beside which resided vast mounds of vodka bottles. In fairness, present day Mongolians are adding their fair share of new glass to these troves but, there’s no question that vodka and its associated bottle litter is more pervasive than many other fixtures across the landscape.

During our journey, we were confronted with the refrain of need for better food security and agriculture infrastructure. Occasionally we saw greenhouses that had been built by Korean aid and development agencies. However, these aluminum frames, plastic draped constructions did little to withstand the violent sandstorms – a signature of the Mongolian climate – and as a result, many stood tattered in the windy desert and plains.

Using our Integral Accounting framework, we launched a program to take the native abundance – namely, vodka bottles – and use these to build windstorm resistant greenhouses. Ken undertook to develop this project and, in less than one year, we went from idea to construction. In partnership with people like glass engineer and artisan Bill Hess, beetle-kill lumber construction engineer Greg Smith, M-ICP logistics master Nergui Dorj, the ‘SoNo’ M•CAM Heritable Innovation Trust interns (lead by my daughter, Katie Martin), UVA’s Jefferson Public Citizens student grant recipients, Professor Bob Swap and a team from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, together with countless others, the possibility of using the legacy of Russian vodka bottles to enhance food production in Mongolia went from concept to reality. None of this would have been possible were it not for the inspired leadership of Ken.

Is it possibly the case that if we look at the unconsidered litter of our industrial frenetic consumption, we may find that we have bypassed opportunities to confront today’s challenges with yesterday’s abandoned resources? Is it possible that the foundation for tomorrow’s transformation may come from a repurposing of today’s neglect? Is it possible that we could actually begin transforming our models for future engagement by repurposing what once served to foster dependency and addiction? Maybe the vodka bottle greenhouse is an anomaly that cannot be repeated. Maybe the world’s challenges are too great to be confronted with a re-imagined view of the ignored and abandoned. But then again, maybe not. What is important is that each of you knows that there’s a phenomenal young man who inspired an international team to transform the legacy of an addictive past into a fruitful future. His name is Ken and we’re all more fortunate to know that he’s in our world.

Make sure you take a look at the amazing slideshow at the bottom of the following website:

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Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave