What inspires us (archive)...

Toward Civilization


We continue to be stirred by Seth Godin’s blog which is based on the notion of “Make Something Happen.” His book, What to do when it’s your turn, is a book about helping people “do work that matters.” We particularly like his piece titled “Toward Civilization.” We should never forget to speak up, care a little more and "say, 'wait,' when they cross the line, when they pursue profit at the cost of community, when they throw out the rules in search of a brawl instead” because “…the race to the bottom and the urge to win at all costs aren't new, but they're not part of who we are and ought to be.”


We are inspired by Sadik-Khan’s approach to recapture our urban streets. Instead of relying on traffic “models” that are rarely tested against reality, she went ahead and made changes with temporary materials that could be reversed if the benefits failed to materialize. “You can have fun with paint” she says to test innovative approaches to take advantage of “an asset that is largely hidden in plain sight”.

This is Water

Every once in awhile we make sure to watch or read the commencement speech by the late David Foster Wallace at Kenyon College in 2005. This talk might just change the way you see the tiny, sometimes annoying, details of life. Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading. The entire speech is published in a short book called This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life.

We love this editorial on the “haimish line” that David Brooks explored in 2011. At Cultivate, the importance of creating warm, inviting, convivial environments is our ultimate goal. Brooks discusses his experiences and observations regarding which side of the line he has ended up on, and why that is important to consider when you spend your money.


Efforts to preserve the sage grouse reflect a trend of competing interests uniting in this article from the New York Times. We agree that it is important to talk about conserving nature at several levels. This discussion  doesn’t necessarily have to be an “either/or”  choice between conservation and development but an “and/both” solution as this article explores.


This pilot project in the Pajaro Valley where they are paying farmers for groundwater recharge inspires us. Just as households with solar panels get credit for selling power back to the grid, landowners can offset their water bills by pushing water underground. With winter rains filling California’s reservoirs, the rush to capture some of that bounty before it gets to the sea is ON. “You can’t buy any more land and put more infiltration basins in,” Helen Dahlke, a hydrologist at UC Davis says, “the agricultural landscape is really the natural place to do this.”


We love what Bill Strickland, builder, innovator, educator, MacArthur Award winner has to say about the importance of how environments can change behavior. Bill is the creative mind behind the Manchester Bidwell Project in Pittsburgh. In this TEDTalk, Mr. Strickland offers a hip, witty portrayal of how the concept school that he created uses beauty, respect and hope to transform "poor folks" into working class citizens who represent endless possibilities when someone believes in them.

Clean air makes it possible to breathe. Silence makes it possible to think. In this op-ed by Matthew Crawford, he explores the notion of looking at our "attention" in the same way that we see our air or water, as a valuable resource that we hold in common. Perhaps, if we could envision an “attentional commons,” then we could figure out how to protect it. The fact that "silence is now offered as a luxury good" points to the notion that the benefits of silence are off the books. They are not measured in the gross domestic product, yet the availability of silence surely contributes to creativity and innovation.

"Buying the farm" takes on a whole new meaning as this article in Orion explores. The farming model of the future is indeed about sustainability: in terms of farms, food production, resource protection and "growing" a new generation of farmers. Sustainable farming is already proving to be more resilient and profitable and may turn out to be the big winner in the long run.

Saving nature is just not so simple anymore. Emma Marris's book, "Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World" is an important read on exploring new strategies for saving "nature". In this article, she co-authors a compelling op-ed with Greg Aplet that urges the strategy of utilizing a diversity of approaches. Above all, they write: "No matter which reason motivates you most, working together and using a diversity of approaches is far better than inaction or squabbling."

One of our heroes is Maira Kalman, who is constantly exploring our world through her quirky sense of humor, insightful observations and powerful illustrations. This "Portrait of Creativity" is a beautiful and evocative short film produced and directed by Gael Towey that documents her inspirations, revealing the course and curiosity that propel the "creative act."

There is a lot of talk about how important "collaboration" is right now in our "shared" economy. We at Cultivate are constantly exploring ways in which to harness the energy of collaboration in crafting the environments we live in. This TED talk explores all the facets of collaboration and what motivates dozens, thousands, even millions of people to come together and commit to projects. Listen up to the Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and others on understanding how to build collaborative environments and approaches.

We know, we know, you have heard it a million times. This story really gets to the heart of rebuilding our connection to where our food comes from. Dan Barber, of Stone Barns fame, talks about what to do with a problematic boar.

Whether you call it Shared Value or Benefit Corporations, the future of capitalism--companies that care--is creating a meaningful competitive edge for the businesses that embrace it.

We like to follow Walker Smith and all he has to say about emerging trends regarding the definition of "Home",  and what that means to the development and housing industry.

Better Streets:
What's the Priority?

"What a bunch of idiots. Don’t they know this will create a traffic nightmare???” Yes, we all have said that at some point. This blog post by Scott Doyon peels the onion and gets to the main question about how to prioritize street environments. Informative graphics and resources also support the discussion.




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Cultivate was founded to help change the way people think about improving and managing land. 
We are a California State Certified Small Business (SB) as well as a Certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE).