Dave Wann has spent thirty years pondering a qualitatively better, more sustainable future. His research and reflection has produced four books, more than a hundred articles, and twenty videos. Many more products are in the works. He has taught at the college level, worked as a policy analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for more than a decade, and helped design and build the cohousing village in which he now lives.
Edward Abbey’s belief that "We must learn to think not only logically but biologically" triggered Biologic in 1990. In that accessible, example-rich book, Wann proposed an economy based on natural reality and human nature, rather than abstract, obsolete goals. The individual’s role in making choices and driving sustainable design was the focus. Wrote Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, "Biologic is lively, provocative, insightful and delightful – one of the best environmental books in years." In his book Deep Design (Island Press), Wann took a more comprehensive, systems-wide look at design. Wrote Paul Hawken in the book’s forward, "The concept of deep design provides us with a pathway to elegant, innovative systems changes that will change life on earth for the better."
Wann comments, "My most exciting project to date is the book Affluenza (with John De Graaf). It is based on the popular PBS programs, and it offers an escape route to a new American Dream that will be much healthier and much more satisfying." Wann and his co-authors document how "the quantity and quality of stuff we use, and the technologies that produce all that stuff, are rapidly ripping apart the tapestry of life on Earth. We’re liquidating real wealth in trade for trinkets -- short-term, artificial wealth."
The videos Wann produces present pragmatic alternatives to wasteful, unsustainable practices. "Seeing is believing," says Wann. "We need to know there’s a bright, achievable reality waiting for us. There are many ingenious people and energetic organizations working to restore our culture. That’s why I’ve devoted so much effort to video production – to show what the innovators are up to." Sustaining America’s Agriculture, narrated by the late Raymond Burr, appeared in syndication on public and cable TV stations across the country, as did Transportation 2000: Moving Beyond Auto America. The short program, Sustainable Design: Lessons from Nature premiered at the 1996 Olympics and was recently used at the United Nations. Smart Growth is widely used by city councils and planners across the country, and Building Livable Communities was produced in 1999 as a speaking tool for then Vice President Al Gore.
Wann has spoken to a wide variety of audiences over the years, from small, informal groups of 20 to large conferences of 500 or more. He strives for authenticity, using many concrete examples as well as a rich array of wisdom gleaned from cultural mentors and role models. Wann likes to engage his audiences with personal recollections, stories, and dry humor, with an over-arching theme of bad news/good news: "The building is indeed on fire, but there are safe, secure exit routes -- and better buildings." Weaving together a lively collage of solutions, he inspires audiences -- leaving them with a sense of hope. Though his talks are both entertaining and filled with content, he especially enjoys spontaneous interaction with the audience. "We’re all in this together," he says, "and together, we can design our way out. Every crisis is fertile with opportunity."
He has often talked on pollution prevention and sustainable design, topics he incorporates into his current speaking topic, "Affluenza, the All-Consuming Epidemic." He is also available for book-signings after his talks.
Video speaking samplers with excerpts from several talks, speaking testimonials, several audio interviews, book excerpts and information about his books, and articles are available here.
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