Jonathan Rose: Well-Tempered Cities That Harmonize Humans
Couldn't load media player!
Nov 18, 2017
Guest: Jonathan Rose
Moderator: Aryae Coopersmith
Welcome to our Awakin Calls. Every Saturday, we host conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life. Speakers whose personal journeys awaken and inspire our innate spiritual service. Thank you for coming together to plant seeds for a more compassionate society.
Fabrizio: Welcome to our weekly Awakin Call. Today, in conversations with Jonathan Rose. Here is how the call works. In a few minutes, our moderator, Aryae Coppersmith, will engage in a dialogue with our guest, Jonathan. Around the top of the hour, we will roll into a Q&A and a circle of sharing, where we will invite all of your reflections and questions. I’ll open up the queue right now, so at any point you can hit *6 on your phone to be included in that queue. You will be prompted when it’s your turn to speak. You can also email us at email@example.com. This week’s theme is well tempered ciity that harmonizes humans. Our guest, Jonathan Rose, is a developer and visionary philanthropist who believes we can designs and reshape our cities that’d equalize landscape of opportunity, enhancing resilience, adaptability, well being, and harmony with nature. He is recognized for creating urban communities that heal both residence and neighborhoods alike.
Our moderator today, Aryae Coopersmith, also helped to create an urban community hub the legendary house of love and prayer that heal residence in the neighborhoods of San Francisco in the 1960’s. The story, in which he has chronicled in his book, Holy Beggars, a journey from Haigt Street to Jerusalem. He holds a MA in humanistic psychology from California State University and has held a variety of leading roles in human resources for decades. He’s also the founder of One World of Lights, a community of global citizens with a shared of vision of people across the globe supporting a course of change for humanity by supporting each other. So, I can think of nobody better in Service Space ecosystem to interview our guest today. Aryae, thank you for being here.
Aryae: Thank you so much, Fab, for that generous introduction. I’m very happy to be able to have this conversation and all of us to have this conversation with Jonathan Rose. He is a real estate developer, urban planner, philanthropist and author and he is best known as a developer of affordable environmentally responsible communities. He is also the founder of Gramavision Records, a jazz and new music label. And he is the author of the book, Well Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations and Human Behavior Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life. This book won the 2017 Prose Award for outstanding scholarly work by a trade publisher. Early in life, Jonathan found inspiration for vision the idea of well tempered cities from the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in the Well Tempered Clavier and I look forward to exploring that together some more. Jonathan’s inspiration from music extends throughout his career. In 1979, he found Gramophone Records, producing over 75 jazz and new music recordings.
And in 1986 he joined with Winton Marcelis and a leadership in New York to form Jazz of Lincoln Center, where is was the chairman of the executive committee from 1986 to 2003. And he oversaw the design and construction of its home, the Federick P. Rose Hall, which is named after his father. And in 2002, Jonathan and his wife cofounded the Garrison Institute which connects inner transformation with outer solutions to release suffering in the fields of trauma, education, and the environment. He has also served on the boards of Educational Alliance, the Enterprising Community Partners of Brooklyn Academy of Music and is an honorary board member of the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Museum of Natural History. In 2007 he was named commission chair of the Green Ribbon Commission of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the New York area and he was member of the governor's 2100 commission formed in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. So Jonathan Rose, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us in this conversation this morning.
Jonathan: Good morning, I’m happy to join you.
Aryae: So, I’d like to talk about the well-tempered clavier, which became for you, a kind of a scene for your concept of well-tempered cities. Can you share with us about how you see and hear this music and how it became so important for you in your thinking about cities.
Jonathan: Great, so interestingly it goes back to Pythagoras. So about 2500 years ago, and interestingly, Pythagoras lived at a time called the Archaic Age, which was also the same, about 500 B.C. which was when the Buddha lived and whatnot, Confucius’ writing and Socrates, there was an amazingly generative time in human history. Actually, similar to this time there had been 2 inventions, I know I’m going a little long, but we have some time…
Aryae: Oh, we have plenty of time, no problem.
Jonathan: there had been 2 inventions actually about 5 or 7 hundred year earlier. One was money, and the other was the wheel and the armed chariot. And the chariot led to a vast expansion of war, and the money led to a vast expansion of capitalism and consumerism. And I say that because we are seeing in a way a similar situation today. And in response, there was a great kind of social chaos and destruction and suffering that came out of these. And that there was across the world, there seemed to have been a collective response that emerged in this Archaic Age to that. Anyway, what Pythagoras observed was that the proportion between the notes on a lyre or a lute, was the same as the proportion of the distances between the planets. Just amazing with the unaided eye observation and then he observed that the proportion which we called the golden…
Aryae: ...wow talk about pattern recognition.
Jonathan: Though he saw that actually existed as a proud nature. And what he said that humans are gonna do anything in alignment with nature it should be in this proportion. When you tune instruments in that proportion, it’s actually, internally perfect. It’s the most perfect tuning. So, for the next 2000 years all musical instruments were tuned that way. The problem is that if you tuned an instrument in the key of A perfectly and you tune other instruments in the key of C, the perfections don’t align. They work individually, but not as a whole system. They actually sound terrible if you play them together. So, you will never go, you are stuck in one key. And this was a musical problem for 2000 years. A mathematician in China around 1500 figured out answers to this which is actually you tune slightly in between perfections. You find a compromise. That’s the space where you can find unity, harmonic unity amongst all these different keys.
Actually, if you go back to Pythagoras his wife was another philosopher named Theano and she proposed something called the golden mean which was all about finding these compromises. Interestingly Pythagoras was masculine and she was feminine at these two points of view but she was continually trying to soften his philosophy and find a space where consensus came together making it less black and white. That is what the Chinese philosopher discovered may turn it into math and came across so crude entered Europe and by around just before sixteen hundred a German mathematician named Andreas Wakemeister turned it into a tuning system called temperament and at the same time a new instrument was invented which is the club ear which is the forerunner to the piano.
So the way I view is that society or the musical society had a new operating system, this tuning system and a new- new technology, new hardware. So new hardware and a new software which is the clavier in a completely unleashed back. Let's back up. Bach was a deep religious man who most of his life really worked for churches or for course writing church music and his goal was to express the extraordinary harmony to the universe on earth in music. But his palette had been limited. I mean he did amazing-amazing works but when he came to understand the power of temperament in the new instrument the clavier he brought those together and they created this amazing music to show the world how to create uses these new tools. He created music, the well-tempered clavier in two books. The first book was really an instruction book as a series of compositions that showed every major and minor key on the keyboard and he introduced amazingly beautiful pieces meant twenty years later did look two which is just a continuation. So I knew this and that was a part of my book. I had written my book. I turned it into my publisher who said that if you really want me to publish this I'll publish this but it's not your best book. Take take more time. Rewrite it and write your best book and lead the new organizing theme and I said almost instantly I said aha I'm going to organize it around the idea of the well-tempered clavier. Its has been on the book but it has been a minor theme in the book and I reorganized.
Aryae: Interesting so initially you did not organize it that way?
Jonathan: Right so that's the book that came out and it was fantastic because there is the symbol of a human looking to nature finding patterns of harmony and trying to express that harmony in human manifestation on earth and in a way that that harmony that we live in the Bach music is to re-inspire us, it is to reconnect us with that greater harmony and in the end of though and that's what my real aspiration for cities. I recognized that they need infrastructure that works in the political systems that work. They need livelihoods for all people so this has to be very practically grounded but my sense is that anything we do although it needs to be practically grounded rises to the level of our aspirations and I felt that box aspiration set a very have high aspiration is a model for how we should think about the future of human civilization.
Aryae: You know one of the things that you were saying that really caught my attention about the development of the modern scale is that you said that the original law developed by the Pythagoras was perfect but the perfect didn't allow for the harmonization of different keys.
Aryae: And you know it just seems to me that that has so much relation to situation in our world in our country and our societies today that somehow it seems to me that-that people want a perfect philosophy or a perfect approach or a perfect political ideology but that doesn't allow for the harmonization of different-different groups of people.
Jonathan: Right so we also see. One of the issues we have in society and certainly in the world or working in cities is it everything is divided into silos and this really so it's interesting it is a fascinating book called, if you wait one second I will get you the exact name but it describes Bach.So there is a meeting between Bach and Frederick the Great and it happened about seven hundred fifty just before Bach died and it is this story and it's called an evening in the palace of reason and Frederick the Great was a despotic King but he also kind of very enthusiastic about the enlightenment and the enlightenment said that the reason matters and Bach came from this deeper spiritual world where there was a kind of a pre- reason approach from seven fifty the world became much much more reasonable. We refocus much more on logical systems and organization, unleashed the industrial revolution it gave rise to all kinds of progress but we lost an enormous amount of integration that came with it and ultimately what flowed out of the enlightenment was dividing things into pieces. That's really how science prospered breaking things down rather than bringing it reintegrating them into the nineties and early twentieth century.
And our city agencies and our funding happened that way so we funded highways out of the transportation department and housing out of the housing department and we set policy for schools out of education and help out the health department and we broke them apart when actually they are all deeply interrelated and what you're seeing with the rise and complexity theory and systems thinking is the beginnings of an understanding that we have to reintegrate and I think if we're going to succeed in the twenty first century it's going to be understanding how we reintegrate that pieces back into whole.
Aryae: Hmm. .And that's really a key thing in your book. There's one place where you talk about to increase urban adaptability in a way that balances prosperity and well-being with efficiency and equity ever moving toward home and you say that the five qualities of a city that can do this are coherence, circularity, resilience, community and compassion. Can you say without going into a huge amount of detail can you say a little bit about that what are those qualities and how does that bring cities into a state of wholeness.
Jonathan: So first a warning and that is, unfortunately, I'm not sure if we ever reach a perfect state of wholeness but we need to be moving toward it. We need to because we're in dynamic systems you know like there's no static in states so it's something you have to endlessly-endlessly we are moving towards. I hope we get there but at least it will be a little bit of process.
So the first is coherence and the importance of coherence is it's really what I was just saying about master planning it's about how we actually need to reintegrate all of our systems and in that section I actually begin looking to very beginning of civilization and history and because my second question was how did cities arrive I mean you know where does this phenomena come from. And one of the interesting lessons is the oldest building known in the world's is an incredible temple in southern Turkey called Gobekli Tepe and it is amazing that the first building we know wasn't a hut. We know people lived in caves and they probably lived in thatch houses stuff but this is hardly a little village it's an amazing temple, a big temple, has huge stone carved with half man and half beef that people believed, we believe the five hundred people to move and there were a vast ceremonies that took place. The temple was actually the joint point between human's heaven and earth, between humans and nature and there's an archaeologist named Krause who says first came the temple then came the city. In the roots of every ancient city we see if you dig down to the lowest level of temple ok so, so called hearance was actually part of a very interesting thing called hearance and the differentiation. I draw a lot of analogies from nature and a lot from the nature of the mind the scientist Dan Siegel says," The healthy mind integrates differentiate part -differentiate part and so much the healthy city." So coherence is really about how in a dynamic ever changing world do you create coherence moving towards an integrative goal.
Aryae: What's fascinating about the ancient cities we are describing is that it was build on a, sort of religious, mystical, spiritual vision and that's so different from how we experience secular cities today.
Jonathan: Yes, BTW the Chinese cities (it is different in different parts of the world) the Chinese cities are also extremely organized around an amazing pattern called the nine-square pattern in which they actually mapped on all of china. At the city level there were these nine squares, the central square was always the emperor's square and one Square was the Market Square and one square was the administrative square and so on and so on. And then if you go beyond the city to the county, the county worked that way. If you even go to the farmer's field the farmer's fields were divided into nine squares. The center Square - the crops they raised was to tied to go to the Emperor. Because remember that's where the emperor lived in, in the ultimate you know ruling city. So the food that came from that square would go to a County Center. The County Center was designed in nine squares and the food would go to the warehouse in the central ninth square and then that will go to the Region. So they had this complete coherence, maybe over-coherence, but they had this complete system design based on the nine square that mapped every part of the country.
The next section is circularity. Ninety eight percent of everything that goes into cities leaves as waste within six months. By 2050 we're going to be a population of 10 billion people and by 2080 they think eighty percent of world's population will be living in cities. We already consume far more than the Earth can sustain. And the ten billion people are becoming more and more middle class which is good but it also means that they are consuming even more. It's completely unsustainable. And so the only solution we have is to move from linear usage to circular usage.
For example, many parts the world are developing enormous crowds that really don't have enough water. We have to be recycling wastewater back into drinking water, which is very achievable. We have to be recycling. San Francisco has the highest rate of recycling in the world. It recycles eighty percent of its waste and has a goal I think by 2020 or 2022 or something like that to be recycling one hundred percent of its waste. And interestingly it's waste recycling is done by a co-op that actually came out of a early twentieth century rag pickers Union.
So it's creating great jobs. That too locally. So we need to think of everything in circular ways. I will get into this little bit later, but I have a friend named John Fullerton, who asked "What is regenerative economy that is also not linear but is circular?"
So we need to think about how we integrate all those elements in a circular system which is what nature does. What's interesting is the way nature does this - so think about it - trees breathe out oxygen and in carbon dioxide, humans breathe in oxygen and out carbon dioxide. We cycle together. Even as elementary school or as junior high school kids we learnt about the incredible cycles of nature. How does that happen? It happens because we all share the same DNA. You may have heard that humans and banana trees have fifty percent of the same DNA. And humans and frogs have ninety-two percent of the DNA. It is that meta genome, it is that fast genomic system that actually integrates us all, that kind of gives us each our own piece of the instructions but the instructions are all tied together. And so now you can begin to see how coherent and using kind of really deep integration and planning leads to the circularity which is the whole systems functioning together.
We're in a much more volatile time in the twenty first century. We know from climate change we're going to have enormous weather volatility, we're seeing certainly political volatility and we're seeing wars and the largest number of refugees that we've had in a long time. We need to think about how we create much more resilient systems. So the third section is how we create resilient systems and some of that technical systems such as micro-grid and solar alternative energy and how we tie all those technologies together. But it is also about weaving natural infrastructure - weaving nature into cities. It is a vast human desire to be next to or a part of nature (it is called biophilia).
And we're seeing the best cities in the world are actually becoming much taller, much denser, but at the same time opening up space for nature. That sounds like a conflict but for example in Singapore the minimum building now is fifty stories tall. That is code. But those buildings are mixed use, they're mixed income, they're mixed race. They had racial riots in the 70’s and they solved this by having everybody live together side by side. And they're creating much more space, they're actually ripping up roads and turning them into incredible biodiversity parks.
Aryae: Do you have a design where you have tall buildings and then parks in between them?
Jonathan: Not in between them but the buildings are clustered to be communities and then woven as a fabric around and through them are park. We are seeing that we basically have to integrate circular technical systems and the natural systems.
Nature is an amazingly effective tool for climate change. So communities that are very enriched with trees, for example, are six degrees cooler in the summer. The trees absorb air pollution. The trees absorb carbon. So actually there are helping solve the carbon problem. The trees provide natural shading. We now know the neighborhoods with a lot of trees have better mental health. People walk more and have better physical health. Neighborhoods with a lot of trees have higher real estate values which is better for homeowners and generates more taxes so it's better for cities. These are all what we call co-benefits, they come from bringing nature into cities and one of the solutions of circularity is you're always looking for co-benefits, for this integration.. to take it back to that well temperament stuff.
The fourth section is called community. So communities and how do you create human communities that function along these principles. One of the things I've created is a phrase called the cognitive ecology recognizing that our minds together (we call it culture). There is a lot of social science now about how we co-influence each other. Science, for example, that shows that if somebody becomes obese then their spouse and other people close to them are likely to get obese and it actually goes through the three links of the interconnection. There are vast studies over multiple generations that show how disease and health can spread through social relations.
One of the key things corroding our cognitive ecology is trauma. We're an increasingly traumatized society and early childhood trauma - when children experience abuse & neglect,
a lot of volatility of parents going off to jail, or parents being divorced, eviction that comes from financial issues, etc - these have lifelong consequences in how these young children as young adults and adults behave in life long consequences in terms of their health. There's a huge amount of healing that needs to be done. In our mental state if we're going to truly have a healthy cognitive ecology which is an essential part of the total ecology of cities.
Aryae: How does the design of a city impact the cognitive ecology? How does that work?
Jonathan: I'll give you some specific examples. (We are not designing just physical space we have to design....let me give you an example let me I want to go to a key to this so we )
Part of this problem is that we now face huge income inequality in America and the inequality is not just income. We now know that if you look at the healthiest zip code, statistically people have a twenty year longer life span than the least healthy zip code. We know that the education is very poorly distributed. We know that access to affordable housing is poorly distributed. We can look at a whole bunch of functions that we can look in their distribution. And if we set a goal that the true mission for America is to be a land of opportunity. And that our goal then is to equalize this landscape of opportunity for all. And then we ask how do we design communities to provide this equal opportunity.
Then what we see is that every neighborhood must have housing that is affordable for the people who live and work there. Every neighborhood must have schools that are tuned to the needs of their specific population, so that every child growing up in America and in the world has the equal opportunity to education. That the health care system is distributed. That parks in open space which I describe how important they are equally distributed. That there is mass transit & walkability, that there's local shopping, that there's healthy food. We now know not only a whole series of items but we can actually measure them. So for example, in New Orleans, all poor people before Katrina could only go to one hospital, which is called the Charity Hospital, was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. When the plan came to rebuild it the hospital is not rebuilt. It was rebuilt as eighty one community based clinics. One of the major diseases of the poorest people in New Orleans was diabetes and they often had to go for dialysis. So instead of going to one central place to wait in line all day and it was a horrible place this Charity Hospital, they now go to locally based community clinics which is much easier but more/equally importantly, they've trained eighty one neighborhoods local people to be dialysis technicians and to be health care workers. So you now have not only distributed the work, you distribute and the opportunity and the training, but you have people who know their neighbors who are serving as the technicians.
That's just one example.
Aryae: So this example of the distributed clinics, employing local people is relating to your quality of community?
Jonathan: This is all within this issue of how you create healthy community centers. We need communities that both bring more nature back into neighborhoods but also bring opportunity to neighborhoods. So that distribution that I described about how it must happen at the level of education, transportation... All the aspects of the city need to be more equally distributed.
The last section is called Compassion. And I say and I think its really in alignment with your audience and your audience's mission that we can't achieve any of this unless we have a pervading sense of compassion and action. And that's really dependent upon two things. The first is we have to really understand that we are deeply interdependent. That all nature and all life is interconnected. Secondly, we to infuse that understanding of interdependence with both individual acts of compassion but also understand that we need systems of compassion. And that, we need to, in effect, think about "how do we design systems that enhance the quality of life and equalize it for every single resident in the city?". And with that view, which I call entwinement, the entwinement of entwining the understanding of systems with the desire to equalize and speed compassion.
I think that worldview is essential for the ultimate health of the city.
Aryae: Thank you for that really comprehensive view of what is and what's needed. I think at this point, I would like to remind our listeners that we'd love to have your questions in about half hour.
Jonathan, I want to sort of transition from the intellectual structure that you've laid out for us and ask you about your development business. Can you make it a little concrete for us? Any of the projects that you have done that embodies some of these qualities or moves the community towards some of these qualities. Actually give us an idea of how this works on the ground.
Jonathan: Great. ok. One of the most interesting and in a way ordinarily achievable things we are doing is -- we've raised a series of funds that buy existing affordable housing, make it greener and these elements of community and opportunity to them. We do some amazing new things, we built some incredible new buildings, they are beautiful and they are green and they have all these fantastic elements integrated in them. But they are hard to do them at scale. For 5-7 years they are fantastic, but we can't really do that at scale. What we can do is transform existing affordable housing and scale. We have created a model for that.
First of all, every time we buy a project - think of a 200 unit affordable housing project built in the 1970s or late 70s or early 80s. If they are taller, they are kind of these concrete blocks; if they are lower rise, they are kind of suburban scattered site often brownish, 3-storey walk up kind of suburban affordable housing. So very ordinary stuff.
I actually, many years ago, helped an amazing group called Enterprise Community Partners, which is a combination of for-profit and not-for-profit, totally dedicated to social enterprise. In affordable housing, it brings about 7 billion dollars of funding to communities to do transformation. We created a green guideline called Enterprise Green Communities. Many of you probably heard of LEAD or Living Building Challenge. Enterprise Green Community Guideline is designed specifically for affordable housing and we retrofit all of our buildings to it. It typically lowers our energy use by 20-40%; our water use by 15-25%; our greenhouse gases and we focus a lot on non-toxic, so ti creates much healthier indoor air quality for residents.
We do that renovation, by the way it's very simple. It make economic sense. We are doing things like better insulation, caulking, putting in variable speed, variable drive motors and more efficient boilers and in some cases better windows. It's very normal technology. So greening the buildings.
And then we have a package that we have found works, we are still experimenting, we have a vast experiment going on with this, where we are trying to see what's the most affordable and therefore duplicable by others and transformational. So this package of affordable housing always has a community room and a kitchen. So first on the health side, we build an on-site health exam room and what we have found is that low income people are huge users of hospital emergency rooms, which is very expensive and it's not a good use of hospital emergency room. So local healthcare providers are happy, if we build the room, they'll come and provide free on-site healthcare.
Aryae: Really? Why do they do that?
Jonathan: Yes, because first of all, most of it gets reimbursed by medicaid and medicare. Parts that don't, for low-income people and low-income seniors, they are still so much cheaper than seeing…preventing illness in the home (or the apartment building) vs seeing in the emergency room.
The second thing is that we are working with them and developing a prescription that's a mixture of medicine, diet, exercise, and meditation. So that we know, that like if you have, for example high cholesterol, you can take lipitor but that's insufficient, it works so much better with
So the second thing we are building in our projects are exercise rooms, and the third thing we are building are community gardens. So that we can create a culture of health and so that the healthcare providers can do this multipart prescriptions, like we want you to ride the exercise bike 4 days a week , at least 20 mins a day and the project can actually provide that.
Aryae: Wow. How do the community gardens operate? Is that just kind of left up to the residents or there is someone there to provide some guidance and how to do that?
Jonathan: So it depends on the project. Again, we are learning this. [40:01]
This is an initiative, we have just been starting. We've been doing parts of this in community gardens for decades but this really whole integrated system we're just really working on now. So we sometimes we have it resident led and sometimes we bring in a not for profit that helps organize it. The next part is education. So many low income families, particularly children, more and more schools assign homework online and kids don't have access to computers so we're building computer rooms that can function as classrooms. There are many communities, the YMCA or others, provide afterschool education.
So if we provide the facility than they'll provide the teachers. Or we also use parents as volunteers for homework help, so there's a place for homework. For kids its also a place where parents who don't have access to computers can use it for job searching or whatever. We provide, since it's a community room, we to grow community activities because social connection is so important. And a place for actual social service consulting where we help families kind of find the pathways, connect them to other services that could help. This expands them. So for example, what we've discovered is that we'll work with local libraries that will do, when the host system that a woman is pregnant and we bring in the library that teaches the mother how to read to kids and gives starter books. In our best case we are working with 20-30 different community groups who are all weaving together in a fabric, these are all existing programs but weaving them into the fabric of the existing building. So here's the point. This isn't as much as I imagine an incredible, vast, new, extraordinary, green city, permeated by nature, with super transportation systems and hope we get there. I also believe we have to begin this work right here, right now with the stuff we have.
Aryae: Yea, thank you that really helps me envision how this path happens. I want to switch a little bit here. We've been talking about outer transformation and I want to sort of ask you about the inner transformation part of all of this. I noticed in Wikipedia that you described yourself as both Jewish and Buddhist and you say, " I think Buddhism has really advanced the science of the mind and Judaism has advanced the process of generosity.". And we talked a little bit about this earlier, but I'd like to ask you about your own, your own spiritual practice today and any thoughts about how the inner work and the outer work is connected.
Jonathan: Great. I deeply believe the inner and the outer are connected. Obviously the nature of how we think and what are worldview is and what we want to achieve in the world affects what are goals are in the world, affects what we create in the world. The world's great spiritual traditions, I think all have the sense at the beauty and the deep interconnectedness of the world and they also all have messages about compassionate action and um, so those are great resources. It doesn't have to come from those traditions, his Holiness the Dalai Lama, something that he calls Secular Ethics. So it doesn't have to be religious, it can come from the secular world. But I believe that connection of inner and outer is essential. So, about, as you noted in 2002, as an interesting circumstance, my wife and I were given a monastery on the Hudson river, about an hour north of New York City, surrounded by woods and walking distance to a train and overlooking the river. And we asked the question, "What is the monastery of the 21st century?". And we said it was a place of deep retreat where people could connect with their inner spiritual life. But it's also a place of outer action that then shows a pathway to takes that inner and kinetic, connected action in the world.
Aryae: So how does that work? Can you tell us a little about the Garrison Institute and how does the connection between the inner and the outer work there?
Jonathan: I'll give an example. My wife was the founding President and ran it for the first ten years. And very early on what she noticed that people coming on retreat were often in the social services. You know, they were social workers, schools working in inner cities or nurses, etc. And that they were really burnt out and that the work in the world, the compassionate work in the world, was really tough on them. This lead to her developing a program called, Caring For The Caregivers. It ended up having several manifestations.
She co-developed this with Sharon Salzberg who was a Board Member and is very active at the Garrison Institute. And they put together, working with scientists and neuroscientists and social scientists, a program initially for women working in domestic violence shelters. It is an enormous amount of vicarious trauma, where out of compassion and empathy the women take on the suffering of their clients. And they figured out a way to heal that with a combination of meditation and yoga, because trauma is embodied. And cognitive behavioral therapy and social network building and whole pattern of things that proved to be very effective. That program is now running it in refugee camps around the world for humanitarian aid workers.
Aryae: That's beautiful. You've been talking about compassion and you've been talking about empathy can you talk about the difference between the two.
Jonathan: So this is really interesting. A scientist named, Tanya Singer, who works at the Max Plank Institute, a neuroscientist in Germany, did an interesting study with a monk named Matthieu Ricard. What she discovered was that when you do MRI studies, that empathy- where I deeply feel for you, I feel with you, I feel your suffering, I feel your pain- lights up the parts of the brain that actually lead to distress. It's called empathetic distress. And that, when you focus on compassion which is- I feel for you and I act for you but I am not you, I do not take on your suffering- leads to an entirely different neural pattern in the brain. And, actually leads people to feel gratified in their work. And, we have learned we can actually, Tanya has done vastly more studies, if you google, "Tanya Singer science magazine empathy and compassion", an article comes up that describes this work. So the work at the Garrison Institute is based on training empathetic people how to shift their empathy to compassion.
Aryae: Wow, yea, that is interesting. So, do you follow people that go through this? Have you had stories about how burnt out people work at making this shift?
Jonathan: Yes, and what's really interesting. So we also developed a program that's led by a women named Tish Jennings called, CARE. Which is Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Educators. So it's a version of this compassion training for teachers working in inner city schools. Tish ran the program for three years. We partnered with Penn State University in Harrisburg Pennsylvania and then we did a follow up three year study funded by the Federal Department of Administration in the Bronx. And it's proven to be incredibly effective. Tish moved on to the University of Virginia and combined the CARE program with other programs. They now have a program called The Compassionate Schools Program. I actually visited them on my book tour because Louisville Kentucky had pledged to not only be a compassionate city but to have compassionate schools and they are using this whole integrated system. It's a fantastic integrated systems for teachers and students and the staff who worked in the schools, it gives them a whole languaging culture. It's just working beautifully.
Aryae: Interesting. So I want to, I guess, is the Garrison Institute only For caregivers, social-workers, nurses, etc. is it are there programs that are available for anyone if someone in our community wants to get involved, how might that happen?
Jonathan: oh there are all kinds of ways to get involved. So first of all, if you go to our website which is https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/ there are retreats every weekend, of all kinds and almost all of them are open to the general public. And in all, many different faiths of the Islamic tradition the Christian, the Jewish tradition, the Buddhist tradition. And we welcome all kinds of people to come and then there are programs also specifically like every summer there's that care training for teachers that I described and there are specific ones more for specific sectors.
There are some more private ones that people hold. So I once had one for example of people working in the affordable housing leaders on the issue of compassion and empathy. So there are many private ones and many organizations come to the institute to host their own retreat. We love to welcome that to many non-for-profits and even so for-profits and in New York City if you happen to be in New York November 29th we are having our annual fundraising gala which will be a fantastic event. You can find out more about that on the website and come support us that way.
Aryae: Alright great. We'll make sure when they send out the email after the call that we'll make sure that people have that link to the garrison institute. You know, thinking about the whole very large systems view that you offer about cities, one question that occurs to me is how can ordinary people who are not real estate developers or running big organizations, how can ordinary people participate in the process of evolving, creating well tempered cities.
Jonathan: Great question. So there are so many interesting community- based organizations and community-based movements now. So I would really encourage you to get involved in your neighborhood.
Aryae: Uh huh.
Jonathan: By the way run for office. Take your good intentions and make it part of public service. So you know run for school board, run for your town council, run for your city council, whatever it is. But also there are a lot of interesting community groups that are working on eco-cities movement, something called 20-30 districts. I'm blanking on the name, something like renewal cities or something like that. There are so many groups of people where there are groups of people doing community gardens. There are volunteer mentors in schools, there so many places to start. Do the one that most fits your nature and then grow. And it could be a community level and our cities need volunteer leadership. They really really do. So run for office.
Aryae: That's a great answer and I love that view because any of us can find something so you are saying any of us that volunteer to serve in some way are part of building the well tempered city.
Jonathan: Absolutely and then what's interesting. And this may be something ServiceSpace can help support is networking. What I have found is when you can do it in collaboration with others and share ideas and become part of a community that is all working toward the same goals. So there are networks, there are lots and lots of networks of good to become part of. So for example if you are involved in community gardens there's a national community garden network and a regional community garden network. So not only do the work yourself but figure out how to connect to a larger movement.
Aryae: Got it.
Fabrizio: I’ll just jump in here, Aryae. I'll just jump in and let people know that if you do have questions for Jonathan it's *6 on your phone and you'll be added to the queue.
Aryae: Thank you Fabrizo. And I've really just got one more question for this part for me, Jonathan. The kind of quirky. You know you are talking about cities as ecosystems. And where I live and where a few of us on the call live in the Bay Area. You know we relate more to the Bay Area as a ecosystem. There are San Francisco and then there's San Jose and then there's smaller cities and smaller communities such as the one we live in. And a lot of the conversation that happens here is around the Bay Area rather than any particular city. You know there's the county level and there are inter-governmental organizations and there are inter-county organizations so I'm curious you know how about a region. Is a region the same as a city? Is it different? What are the similarities and what are the differences?
Jonathan: So actually region is the right area, not city. And they umm and the reason I use city is because it's easier, the well-tempered region doesn't sound so good.
Aryae: Okay. Laugh.
Jonathan: And the histories of regions doesn't sound so good. But the reality is that you are completely right. You know need regional systems, for example if you want to connect a city to its food system that's regional; to its water system, its regional. So much of it is regional and its transportation system is regional. So you are completely right. It's really the well-tempered region.
Aryae: Interesting. Okay.
Fabrizio: Thank you so much. This is a great conversation. We could keep on going but sad at this point. I'm going to turn this over to you.
Questioner 1: Okay well, thank you so much to both of you. Umm. Jonathan I have a couple of question for you that have come up for me while I've been listening here in the background. Umm. One is about as you mentioned there's a huge problem with wealth inequality. In this country and many other countries and you talk about whole systems needing to work together. And it strikes me that the main system that needs to work together is the economic system to support all this. And I'm wondering where all the funding ultimately comes from. Is it pure philanthropy or is the government involved in various levels to support these projects or does it vary according to region and city and so on?
Jonathan: So philanthropy is wonderful to seed change but the global economy is far too big for philanthropy alone to shift. Umm. I am actually a deep believer in the nascent power of government to do good and to be the integrator. umm. All the affordable housing projects that I do, one can only build affordable housing with government subsidies. The cost of housing the construction is too high and the income is too low. So we work a lot with ? and there's so single program that can build affordable housing or provide health-care etc. we have to integrate many of them into our projects. Our most complicated project had 23 sources of financing and typically they'll have six to twelve. Umm but remember I was talking about circular systems we need a circular economy. I'll give you a small example. Remember I described community-based health and our projects. We do a lot of work with not-for-projects and we work with the YWCA of white plains to renovate a 90 year of SRO for housing for women who are over 50 who are formerly homeless or who have very low income jobs and who often have both a physical or a mental health disability.
So while I implemented it, a ? medicine program where twice a week the women's blood pressure, blood oxygen and pulse were measured. It went electronically off to doctors who analyzed it and sent back recommendations on diet, exercise and medicine. That's actually where the diet, exercise and medicine idea first came from is this program. and then there was a social worker on site who helped make sure the women you know improved their diet, exercised and took their medicine. The hospital emergency room admission in that population got cut in half from that program. So now what are actually working on, we are about to launch a vast study with the Harvard University School of Public Health, Colombia University School of Public Health and Dartmouth is a study to actually try to capture and track and measure the benefit of these on-site health programs we are generating. And not only show what works and what doesn't in terms of people's health but to see where the systemic savings and our belief is that if we can show that there are systems-wide savings that could be hundreds of thousands of dollars per project to the local health-care savings and maybe even more could we then develop a shared savings program where those savings are used to pay for the health system. It’s taking the circulatory concept and tying the pieces together.
Fabrizio: That sounds very productive.
Jonathan: Can I give another example? The greening of our buildings -- we’ve found we can do almost all the energy In almost all the energy savings things I described with a payback of less than 5 years -- a 5 year payback with a 20% return on investment. So if we can borrow money at 3 or 4% - which you can with a mortgage and get a payback of 20% the difference is actually positive economics to us which we can then use to fund the non toxic parts of our greening programs.
Fabrizio: Certainly makes sense. I have another question related to the controlled aspect of all this in terms of creating these other control communities where everything seems to be running more efficiently in terms of the social systems, the environmental responsibility and so on. I am wondering in doing that how much integration does it have because there is interdependence between all systems, between all socioeconomic classes. Are we creating more silos, are we creating more communities that are just better and are still isolated from the general population? Are we still stuck with a system where there is great inequality and are just making the best of a bad situation?
Jonathan: There are a couple of parts to that question. The first one in terms of control -- what’s amazing as Paul Hawken knows, is that nature completely knows how to heal itself. If there is a forest fire, the first to come back woody plants, weeds, and then small bushes and thorns and small trees and then larger trees-- it completely knows how to do that without anybody apparently being in control. So we unfortunately need controlled systems but we also need -- and I think this really is one of the core principles of ServiceSpace is that we also need to each individually act our own way but in a coherent relationship to the whole. So individual service that is improvising and responding to the moment is also as critical as having a master plan. We need to balance that coherence and individual reality and responsibility. My goal is that that should be equi-spread everywhere and you may have noticed the place that I’m working on it is in low-income communities. I’ll tell you one more interesting thing -- because of Enterprises work, the greening of buildings has spread more in affordable housing than anywhere else. 75% of all new affordable housing buildings in America today is built to the enterprise green community standards. New hospitals are built, and schools are built and even luxury housing, the highest penetration is in affordable housing. My goal is the highest penetration of these systems of opportunity are in affordable housing. So yes, I hope one day it will spread to the wealthier neighborhoods.
Caller: Hi Jonathan - this is David Krozier. Thank you so much for sharing today. I love the breadth of what you’ve shared. Everything from 50 storey buildings to Singapore is helping apathetic social worker learn compassion - it’s really a breadth of topics that is refreshing. My questions are - in this country are there any cities whether large or small that you’ve seen programmatically as a whole try to make some strides with these things? As well as if there’s any for-profit developers who’ve made some strides as well?
Jonathan: So I’m a for-profit developer. And there are many others. There is a wonderful firm called McCormack Baron that is based in St Louis but works all over the country. It’s a not-for-profit but is very business oriented. In the Bay Area is a group called Bridge Housing. So I’m part of a wonderful community of for-profit developers all over the country. We work with an amazing, totally compassionate group of people. A small developer in Washington called Somerset Developers. So there’s a whole ecology of us. And then I can give you two examples -- first of all I mentioned that Louisville, Kentucky has chosen to be a compassionate city. And one of the interesting thing that is in my book is that when the Civil Rights Movement happened where among cities and school buses integration was mandated in 1970, many many communities were torn apart by that and you see for example the destruction of Detroit. So Louisville said, “We’re all in it together.” And they combined the city and county school systems.
So you couldn’t move to the suburbs to get out of the integration. And once everybody realized they were all in it together then they had t commit to making every school equally great and they did- they really vastly improved the school system. When I was there I visited an inner city school that had been one of the worst schools pre-1970, it was called Manual High School. And now it is literally one of the 10 best high schools in America. So that’s the Louisville story. Now I’m going to tell you the Oklahoma City story. And I’m purposely not telling you about Seattle and Portland and SF and places where you would expect this. In Oklahoma City about 15 years ago a guy becomes mayor And the next day his chief of staff comes in and says, “Hey boss look at this Men’s Health Magazine has designated us as the Fattest City in America.” And he says, “I didn’t go through this whole election to become the mayor of the Fattest City in America. How do I get out of this?” And the guy says, “Well let me go do some research.” And he comes back and says well it turns out we need to be a walkable city. When people walk their weight goes down.” How do you become a walkable city? You have to put in sidewalks and street trees and things that attract people. So they put together a plan. They raised the sales tax and the people of Oklahoma City voted to increase their taxes to improve their city, make it more walkable, they put a library downtown and some other things, they executed with the best architects, did it really beautifully and it passed.
And so then the business men came to the mayor and said, “You know, Oklahoma City is so boring. Our kids go off to college and they never come back. What do we do to bring them back? They go do research, and they say, “You’ve got to be hipper. You’ve got to do arts and film and have generative spaces.” So they rezoned all their loft areas and created a Film and Media district and they issued a bond and people again increased their sales tax to pay for it and created this really hip generative space. And this goes on and on. They said we’ve got too much traffic and they issued a bond issue for mass transit and to create a light rail system, and they’ve been building affordable housing along it. They said, “Well we’ve got to put Oklahoma City on the map and they took the local river and turned it into a world class place where you train to compete for kayaking events for the Olympics. And they’ve been doing this by taxing themselves. The most conservative state in America the most anti-climate change state in America at least going by its senators. And they’ve been doing this beautiful work that serves everybody.
Fabrizio: Thank you for sharing that. We’re in a bubble out here. In the Bay Area we have some unique challenges. Everyone pushes their housing requirement off so we have an acute and chronic housing supply problem. And we care about our environment and we really seem to be stuck trying to deal with our housing prices. Do you have any thoughts on this?
Jonathan: I do, I've actually spent quite a bit of time in the Bay Area, thinking and looking at this. So the first thing is that one of the effects of the affordable housing issue is that it pushes people farther and farther away, and they have to drive more and more. So pollution and traffic are a deep consequence of not having housing jobs balance. And many of the wealthiest communities including San Francisco and Palo Alto, Menlo Park and that whole region, etc., have lower density zoning than is appropriate for their economic activity and their level of jobs. And they also have zoning that deeply discourages affordable housing, and in San Francisco, for a variety of reasons that are all about political correctness, a new affordable housing unit costs about $750,000 to build. And by the way, it's about $420,000 in New York. Almost twice as much as New York to build an affordable housing unit in San Francisco. And my understanding is it takes 5-7 years to get approved. And part of it is because the city requires union labor and requires 1% for arts and requires this and requires that. And so it takes a complete shift of community will.
Every community has to agree to accept its fair share of affordable housing. What's interesting is that a lot of really crummy affordable housing was built in the 60's and 70's, and 50's and even early 80's. And there's a valid reason why people didn't want concentrated properties and slums in their communities. It's completely understandable. But in the last 15-20 years, there's been amazing green, net-zero, mixed income, gardened community housing bills. We build buildings that win global architectural awards. You look at them, and any community would want to have them in their communities. So what communities need to do is to designate land, to actually identify sites where higher density affordable housing can be, to work with developers to really have it be beautiful, to have it be mixed-income, to have it safe, but it has to be built. And interestingly, people think that affordable housing serves the homeless and undesirables. In fact, it serves our parents, who are retiring and living on social security. It serves our children who are getting out of high school or college and can't afford to live with their first jobs. It serves the cops and firemen who deal... it's a very interesting question that you ask. Are you willing to let your kids be with the school teacher and school aides all day? Are you willing to live next door to them at night? We should be able to. So every community, i believe, has a fair share responsibility to designate land that can be developed for affordable housing in balance with the needs of that specific community.
Fabrizio: Thank you. I'm going to read an online submission from Boston. You outline a beautiful conception of harmonious cities. So much of the trauma facing our country today is a growing divide between urban and rural areas of America. Growing rural poverty and helplessness, and some would argue, the dislocation and disconnection from place-based identity that comes from migration to cities, notwithstanding the material improvements in the lots of such urban migrants. I wonder how your view of a well-tempered city honors rural areas outside of just the country unit, so for example bridging the upstate-downstate divide in New York, politically, spiritually, and economically.
Jonathan: That is a great question, and i actually think the question itself has the seeds of the answer. So, if we say we're going to equalize the landscape of opportunity for all, then that really means all. And it means all in where they live. And so actual rural communities need support, and interestingly, there is Americans move at about half the rate that they used it. So it used to be that people were very, very mobile. We're less mobile, and one of the reasons is that many rural people can't move, either because they're in love with their place, and they've been there multi generations, but also they are taking care of their elderly parents, or they are taking care of the family farm, etc. They are deeply rooted to place. So first of all, one of the lessons of civilization is that in civilization, people thrive with connectivity. If you go to Switzerland, it's amazing. They have a train system that almost goes to the farmhouse level. You can take a train in the mountains and in the rural areas to every little cluster. Those people are connected. They're connected to markets, they're connected to ideas, they're connected to education systems.
And yet those are very rural villages. So both from an internet access, data connectivity, and physical connectivity, we need to do a much better job with our rural communities. We need to do a much better job distributing education. And just as i'm describing in some urban system of sustainability, there are many rural systems of sustainability, and those are places that community solar, for example, really works. And again, these are things that aren't just hippie ideas. When you take a lower income family and you eliminate their electric bills and release the $90 or $120 or $50 a month in their economy, that makes a huge difference. And that's, by the way, the new tax bill -- well, not the tax bill. The current administration to pay for the aid they claim they're going to bring to Houston and to Puerto Rico, has announced that they're going to take part of the money out of rural electrification. So we need actually to grow programs to serve these areas and to help them serve themselves. All the political divides come from people feeling that the system doesn't care about them. And you know what? They're usually right.
Fabrizio: Unfortunately. We have another caller.
Caller: Thank you so much for an incredibly thoughtful conception you have. The work you're doing in the world is obviously very deeply considered. The question i have is struck by a comment you made early in the call when you talked about the effects of the enlightenment and the industrial revolution in terms of breaking down tax. Like in cities, we have different city departments to deal with all kinds of things. I'm sure as a New York City developer, you're used to dealing with cities that are often functional in some ways. And i'm just wondering, in moving from theory to practice in your experience, how do you work with these kinds of divided systems? And more generally, how in your conception would we put the genie back in the bottle? How do we move to more integrated views of public policy in very large cities like that? x
Jonathan: Thanks, great. So first of all, by the way. Your city is one that people don't understand. Well, your city is one of the easiest places to work. So we work all over the country, and most other cities -- New York City is one of the cities where you build, as what's called, as of right. If you're doing a building within the zoning code, you can just go get a building permit. In other cities, you have to get site plan approval, department of water approval, all kinds of complicated approvals to be able to develop. Actually happens to be easier in New York. So it goes to multiple levels. The first thing is really the vision, and i think that cities need a 2050 vision. And the best people to do that are citizen groups.
The greatest plans of the 20th century, like the Burnham Plan of Chicago, is done by independent groups. The Portland Sustainability Institute did a plan for its city. Happens Boston is doing something called Imagine 2030. It's a pretty good plan that's being done by the city. But pretty often, you see independent groups. The Regional Plan Association in a week is releasing a plan for the New York Metropolitan Region. There's an organization in the Bay Area -- i don't know where you're based -- it's called Spur that does regionalized city planning. So i think we need to establish a vision. And then, there's this thing called community health indicators. And these measure all kinds of elements of how cities are functioning, or how regions are functioning. They can measure traffic, they can measure pollution, they can measure carbon dioxide, they can measure how well kids are doing in school, they can measure different aspects of health. They can measure participation in civic life.
They can measure degree of parks and walkability, anyway you can measure hundreds and hundreds of things and we have the big data now that we can do that. So you want to take your vision and then figure out what are the measurements. And then cities need to move. Cities have the following tools: they regulate with building codes and zoning codes. They invest with infrastructure, building transit systems or water sewer systems, whatever. They incent with tax breaks, they create incentives that encourage people to do things. And they also have leadership. The leaders of great cities like the ones I described in Oklahoma City had a vision.
Like the leaders, there are two very specific leaders in Louisville that kind of led them to integrate their school system. Those tools, you can use those tools in a much more dynamic way we tend to be very static, we create a 20 year plan or 10 year plan or whatever. We have to be very dynamic and continually adjust those tools of regulation and incentives and investments and leadership to have the community health indicators which we're always watching help move you towards your vision. And then there needs to be a feedback system. So anyway that's the methodology. We can actually use big data and information to tell us holistically where we are and then even if we have to move the tools and pieces, we can judge their systemic effects.
Fabrizio: Great, I think we have time for one more call. That would be Wendy. Wendy, are you still with us?
Wendy: Yes. First of all thank you so much. This is a very fascinating conversation. I've got a very brief comment and question. My comment is I remember many many years ago in nursing school how I was part of a study where they were trying to teach nursing students to have empathy. And thinking about how I think learning compassion instead would be very helpful in terms of preventing huge amounts of burn out. That's my comment. My question, is my own experiences, I'm a native New Yorker and when I was in my thirties I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in San Francisco then Oakland and now a very small community out on the coast, very low density. Sometimes I wonder how would I be able to integrate myself back into a high density situation, a bigger city. So I'm wondering when you say the trend is to move from the more rural or suburban areas back into cities, what is the key to helping people to live in high density situations and integrate into high density situations, both psychologically and other ways. How do people do that and live so close together and live in such a dense area?
Jonathan: I think there's two keys and the first has to be nature. You know, there's an area in New York City called Battery Park City which is a fantastic place to live. Which has high density buildings that face onto a wonderful park that faces the river that has all kinds of great things for kids and family and just nature and bike paths and play areas. And so the buildings are dense but the place is just a thriving - the density is matched with nature. I think that's number one. And number two, we are social beings. People actually do gravitate to other people and particularly when other people are living in joy. So we need to create, when there's healthy systems, so again I'm going to go back to Battery Park City. There's two great public schools so families there they can walk to school, the parents are very involved in the PTAs and other school functions, etc. Some of them are very traditional social systems like the PTA and some are new ones that are emerging. But, people actually love to community garden together or to play music together and to do those things. So, communities need that social fabric also.
Fabrizio: So we'll start to wind things down here and I want to ask one final question. You say there's no static end state and that is of course true and we do need to remain practically grounded and also rise to the level of our aspirations, ultimately. So I'm wondering what is your aspirations? What is your theoretical end state? What are we working towards here?
Jonathan: So we're really working towards communities that are dynamically resilient. That can adapt, that have built the inherent adaptive capacity so they can ride through the great disruptions that I see we have created by population growth, over-consumption and climate change and income inequality. And they are places that are ever moving towards more environmental, social, human and spiritual health. And there are places that are doing that in a way that equalizes the landscape of opportunity for all. So that every human being has an opportunity to thrive and be part of a better, integrated home.
Aryae: Well thank you so much Jonathan. It's been an informative call. I look forward to learning more about all these ideas of coherent circularity, resilience in community. And I'm going to think long and hard for myself about this idea of empathy versus compassion. And I think that's a very important piece of the puzzle here. And all of us who are working to serve others. And so on that note, I'm wondering how the folks here at Servicespace can support the work that you do.
Jonathan: I really appreciate you so much Aryae and Servicespace for having me on today. And also, I appreciate everybody who listened in because in a way, from what I understand of Servicespace, is that it's really the collective of all of you who are the listeners and the doers. So take these ideas, they're described in much more detail in my book but there's other places to find them too. That's what I love about this community, I think you are already trying to live it in your lives and in the world. And be the spreaders of good. And if the ideas in the book can help you do that in a more effective way, I'd be grateful for that.
About Awakin Calls
Awakin Call is a weekly conference call that anyone from around the world can dial into. It is completely free, without any ads or solicitation. Each call features a unique theme and an inspiring guest speaker. Read more ...
Subscribe To Newsletter
To stay updated about guest announcements, fresh content, and other inspiring tidbits, subscribe below and we'll send you a weekly email.