Why Ideas of Other People Matter

Over the last couple months, I’ve been recording speakers engaged with a variety of significant topics. Urban design, public art, child soldiers, early childhood development, new monetary systems… these are the reasons I got into documentary video in the first place. It affords me the pleasure of exploring subjects we often ignore in our day to day lives.

But more significantly, the issues we are facing are systemic, and so it will take a systemic approach. We can no longer take the approach of specializing in one area and hope that if everyone specialized we’d have a comprehensive whole.

Chris Turner at Soul of the City

For instance, good urban designers are systemic thinkers. Ken Greenberg’s days as an urban design consultant are spent working with biologists, politicians, architects, business owners and many others to come up with an integrative design that meets the needs as a whole. As a simple example, zoning land around transit lines to be high density helps to increase transit use and in turn makes it affordable to operate. In Calgary, the transit department is often isolated from the land department who is isolated from the waste management department.

Chris Turner (shown in the picture above) provides hope though of transforming our cities to become more sustainable in a future where oil and gas will no longer be viable.

Ideas like these that are researched and developed are critical to the development of society. What we find meaningful and what we understand of the world shapes how we act in the world. I’ve become more cognizant of the battle of ideas. There will always be those vested interests and con artists that try to distort are understanding for their own profit. But there are also those people who fight for truth and justice hoping to reveal the reality of the situation so that we might act well from our conscience.

Sherry about Library

One of the great cultural institutions that makes these ideas accesible is the library. One of my favourite projects was interviewing some thoughtful people about what libraries are for. Information is certainly one benefit of libraries. But the library plays a more important role in curating and organizing that information, in providing a space for the community to come together and learn together. In an age of the internet, it’s easy to forget that knowledge is not just what can be found on a screen and in any case knowledge on its own is rarely power unless it can be made sense of and turned into action.

Samantha Nutt and Ken Low

Reading is a way of being in touch with the spirit of the human journey. In an interview with Samantha Nutt (left photo), she claims that she feels stupid if she isn’t reading or writing. And in a way that is true. If you are not familiar with history or science, how is one to make sense of the world? If you don’t take the time reflect on, analyze, test your thoughts, your understanding, how could you act well?

The unfortunate answer to that is we just rely on our instincts, our upbringing, and whatever society tells us. What if that society is on the wrong path? Well, we would never know unless we take the time to learn about the journeys of other thoughtful and dedicated human beings.