Brandon Pitcher, a representative of Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives, or ZERI, made a few appearances recently in Bloomington to showcase ecologically oriented systems design concepts and innovative projects from around the world.

"I'm a native of Indiana, and am currently pursuing a masters degree in Systems Design at the Politecnico di Torino in Torino, Italy," said Pitcher. "Among my professors is Fritjof Capra, the author of The Tao of Physics and The Hidden Connections."

Pitcher has given presentations about sustainable design techniques and the need for a more holistic paradigm in business practices at the United Nations University in Tokyo and the Royal Academy of Sciences in Sweden. He has also worked to inspire elementary school students in Indiana and Italy.

Pitcher took calls during an episode of WFHB's Interchange, which is archived for listeners on the station's web site (wfhb.org). Pitcher also gave a presentation at Bloomington's Public Library that can be viewed upon request through Community Access Television Services (C.A.T.S.).

In his presentation at the MCPL Auditorium, titled "the ZERI Approach to Sustainability," Pitcher highlighted many interesting and inspiring examples of environmentally and socially sustainable development from all over the globe.

A major focus was upon one of the largest reforestation projects in the world in the desolate Vichada region of Colombia where the low pH balance of 4 is too acidic for most life-forms to survive.

Building upon the successes made by the Las Gaviotas community, a plan to plant 8 million trees over the next four years is underway and is expected to create 20,000 jobs.

"By planting Carribean Pine throughout the region, in conjunction with a symbiotic mycorrhizal fungus, the shade from the trees cools the ground and draws rain clouds to the area. This change in the physics of the site also diminishes the hot plate effect, allowing rainwater to be absorbed into the ground and raising the pH to 5.5," explained Pitcher.

Some limited timber harvesting will then allow other species to take hold, increasing the biodiversity from 17 to 256 species. "Las Gaviotas is the most successful rainforest reforestation project in the world."

"Aside from high paying jobs, the indigenous workers are given free housing. They and their people are also provided with higher quality water, a major benefit to those plagued by gastro-intestinal diseases due to the contamination of the nation's general water supply."

"By combating the poverty behind many land disputes, the project has even decreased civil warfare and violence over the past 21 years, eliminating kidnapping and human rights violations in the region," said Pitcher.

A descriptive example of the way ZERI tries to incorporate children and fun into their projects received a warm response from the audience during the vivid and colorful Power Point presentation. The crowd of a few dozen attendees laughed & voiced approval and surprise at the teeter-totters that allow the kids to pump their drinking water while playing.

During his appearance on Interchange on WFHB Community Radio, Pitcher read short morality tales or fables that ZERI uses to instruct children and others about environmental ethics and scientific principles.

A favorite of Pitcher's, titled "Why do zebras have black and white stripes?" demonstrates that the markings are not only for camouflage.

"Zebras have a layer of fat on their black stripes which protects them from the extra heat created by that color's absorption of the sun's rays. And when they are standing still, which is what zebras spend a lot of time doing, the pressure differential between that absorption and the reflection of solar radiation by the white stripes creates vortices of wind, therefore functioning as air-conditioning," explained Pitcher.

This story illustrates the principles known as "bio-mimicry," often used in ZERI's endeavors, which looks to the ancient genetic technologies of nature when designing systems and their components.

Mylo Roze can be reached at or by calling (812) 334~5728.

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To learn more, see ZERI.org. And if you would like Mr. Pitcher to give a presentation to your organization or business, you may e-mail him at .