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01.09.08

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Right Livelihood

Can good design and even better intentions save the world?

By Gianna de Persiis Vona


I arrive at Ursa Minor Arts + Media in Marin brimming with the abstract questions of the technological novice. What part does technology play in our future? How can media design or sound and video production benefit the world? Can technology, which on one level seems to be destroying us, be used instead as a tool for our rejuvenation? What makes Ursa Minor green, other than the fact that it is certified by the Bay Area Green Business Association? (Becoming certified by the Green Business Association is not an easy process and requires meeting a rigorous check-list of green innovations and practices, but that doesn't change the fact that marketing is for profit, not world change. Or is it?)

Because Ursa Minor boasts an in-house chef who creates vegetarian and local organic meals for lunch, an open-office design that uses fewer materials and allows for natural light, and a myriad of other fine details from natural and sustainable building materials to digital communications in order to eliminate paper load, I expect to be impressed. I'm not disappointed.

The Ursa Minor building is smaller than I expected, but visually dynamic—think gorgeous old barn beams coupled with earth tones, sweeping lines, sparkling equipment and a kick-ass kitchen. Still, the question remains: After the compost gets taken out, and the last hybrid- or bio-diesel-driving, public-transit-riding employee has exited the building, how has Ursa Minor helped to create global change if what it does exceptionally well is help people sell their stuff?

I'm given a tour of the premises by cofounder and producer Robin Livingston, COO and bus rider George Kao and Dan Shane, Ursa's "integral media consultant." It doesn't take long for me to see how a vibrant combination of exceptional talent and commitment to creating media that change the way people interact with the world could be an effective means for empowering the environmental and global consciousness movement. From what I can glean from their triad of voices, Ursa Minor focuses on connecting and giving movement to world-changing organizations, producing records for musicians with global visions and marketing books and ideas for visionaries, philosophers and writers.

Experts in green marketing, the Ursa Minor team follow this mission statement: To leverage the maximum range and reach of media and technology to propel human potential and to create a better world. This seems like a lot to take on, but founder and CEO Benjamin De Pauw is clearly committed to making what may seem an idealistic goal into a reality.

De Pauw—who founded Conscious Sound Productions back in 1989 before launching Ursa Minor in 2002—and Livingston are committed to working on visionary projects and promoting conscious media. Past clients include such as Marin philosopher Ken Wilbur and North Indian classical musician Deepak Ram. Livingston, who is all about the music, walks me though Ursa Minor's state-of-the-art recording studio, built with floating floors so that the sound bleeds clean. I get to see the green screen, which creates the ideal background for shooting (something to do with the color spectrum), the private editing rooms, the sound stage and the circle of web and graphic designers and IT geniuses busily working away.

For someone who grew up without a television or a radio, I have a remarkable number of old and meaningless advertising jingles dancing about in my head. These jingles remind me of a rule of thumb I learned from Lew Brown, creator of www.wearenotbuyingit.org: If I've heard of it before, I shouldn't be buying it. Random prior knowledge indicates that I have been the victim of an aggressive advertising campaign. With this in mind, who stands in a better place to help spread a new global consciousness than the producers and marketers? And if this power dynamic is already in play, how much more important is it that progressive movements strive to reach and connect with the widest range of people, in order to facilitate the greatest possible change?

By the time I leave Ursa Minor, I am at least temporarily committed to coming up with some marketable and viable concept for saving the planet, if only so that I will have an excuse to return to its offices, where the team's rampant good looks and creative energy have been enough to lure me into believing that, with enough artistry, anything is possible.

Ursa Minor is currently looking to expand its artistic team with like-minded professionals who hold a strong creative vision for changing the world. To find out more, visit [ http://www.ursaminor.com ]www.ursaminor.com.


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