Today in New West news: building Zion in Provo, UT; Wind River Indian Reservation featured in new documentary, Bozeman teacher takes science gospel worldwide, and a Boulder fertility company receives $25K in venture capital.
In July 1831 the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, announced to his followers in Independence, Missouri, that he had received a revelation from God, proclaiming the state “the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.” A few years afterward, he submitted a plat of the City of Zion to his followers. You can see a facsimile of the plat below, courtesy of the Urban Planning Library at Cornel University:
You can see a copy of the original, which includes notes from Smith along the margins, below, courtesy of Zion Communities:
As of yet, Zion is still a utopia, having never been built in either Missouri or Utah, where the Mormon Church eventually took root. However, the Zion plat has inspired many Mormon settlements in the Mormon Corridor (stretching from southern Idaho/western Wyoming down through Utah and to southeastern California and most of Arizona).
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, however, one man has taken up the struggle in Provo, leveraging his wealth to buy and tear down houses, to start constructing Zion. What’s more, he’s investing in various eco-friendly technologies (like low-impact toilets and new building materials) and preaching cooperative economic systems to flesh out Zion beyond Smith’s original Plat. From the Tribune:
David Hall, a 69-year-old LDS businessman and heir to a family fortune in synthetic-diamond making, has devoted much of that wealth to solving engineering challenges to making key parts of Smith’s 1833 Plat of the City of Zion a reality.
Through Hall’s NewVistas and its many subsidiaries, the silver-hair entrepreneur has bought nearly 20 homes in Provo’s Pleasant View neighborhood, according to property records — often paying sellers a considerable premium. He owns about half the lots already and continues to buy.
“I totally intend to die broke,” Hall joked during a recent tour of busy research laboratories in his southern Provo industrial park.
He views his NewVistas project as pioneering a revolutionary break with past generations of unregulated residential growth and wasteful commuting patterns.
As neighbors grow apprehensive, Hall speaks openly about his hopes to one day acquire the whole Pleasant View subdivision and clear the land to build a highly dense and techno-centric colony-turned-social experiment, packing up to 20,000 residents into a single square mile.
“The concept of single-family homes is an urban-sprawl disaster,” Hall said. “Let’s bring food, industry, commerce, education, play — everything together so we can walk. Our cars can be simply something that we use occasionally instead of every day.”
Hall’s project has received pushback from Provo residents, such as Rebecca England, who called Hall’s plans “bizarre” and said fellow residents felt threatened by Hall’s grand vision.
Hall, however, is adamant in his purpose. Indeed, the Provo plan is just one community in the works; Hall also bought up over 2,000 acres of land near Smith’s birthplace of Sharon, Vermont, with the intent of building his Zion-like community. The end goal? To “fill up the world” with Zions, per Smith’s handwritten recommendation on the original plat.
It may take a while, however; Hall says his Vermont community is at least a generation away, while his Provo community could be realized within 10 to 15 years—unless the Provo City Council quashes his plans to rezone the subdivision. The current council is in favor of quashing, saying single-family homes are part of Provo’s history and character.
Up in Wyoming, according to the Casper Star Tribune, the state’s Wind River Indian Reservation is featured at the heart of a new documentary centered on the trading and enshrinement of Native American artifacts. The documentary (“What Was Ours”) was co-produced by Northern Arapaho member Jordan Dresser, and takes a close look at the importance of Native American artifacts, which (more often than not) make their way into museums, far from the tribes whose ancestors created them. Indeed, an act of Congress (The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) was established in 1990 to help return artifacts to tribes. From the Tribune:
“Native people are portrayed as the people of the past. And I think that sometimes, we as native people, we can sometimes get stuck in that idea, too. The idea that a lot of our things are taken away from us,” Dresser said.
“And that’s the same way with artifacts, too. There are maybe certain things about our culture that we don’t understand, or maybe we think that are lost, but a lot of those items are still there. We can still learn from (them). And the crazy part is, some of (those artifacts) are in storage bins in the back part of museums. A lot of them aren’t on display.”
The documentary has played at film festivals in Greece, San Francisco, Nebraska and Montana. This summer, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian will screen the documentary at its film festival, and later this year, the documentary will air nationwide on PBS.
This is the second documentary from the Wind River Indian Reservation focused on artifacts. The first, “Wind River Virtual Museum,” was released in 2013. It paired 360-degree shots of artifacts with audio descriptions from elders.
Dresser added he expects “What Was Ours” to appeal to a wide swath of viewers, since it explores both contemporary and historical Native American culture.
Over in Montana, former Bozeman High science teacher has become something of a educational celebrity, according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Paul Andersen, who was named Montana’s 2011 teacher of the year, started making 10-minute videos on the side for his AP Biology students, helping explain class concepts. With the help of one of his students, Andersen started posting the videos to YouTube, where they found traction worldwide, from the United States to Africa to Brazil. And capitalizing on his newfound fame, Andersen went from being a Bozeman teacher to an international one, traveling around the globe as an educational consultant. From the Chronicle:
Two years ago, Andersen took a leave of absence from Bozeman High to find out if his new status as an educational consultant was something he’d enjoy and could turn into a full-time career. The answer was yes, so recently he resigned from the Bozeman School District.
Now he’s in demand all over the world, mainly teaching teachers how to teach the Next Generation Science Standards. Andersen said he loves the new science standards because they emphasize students asking their own questions and investigating answers, instead of listening to lectures and following “cookbook”-like exercises to reach precooked conclusions.
“By them asking their own questions, they have ownership,” Andersen said. “More importantly, they’re learning to think like scientists.”
His first client was an American international school in Tokyo. Through word of mouth, he now gets invitations to give weeklong workshops at American international schools all over.
This fall he’s traveling for eight weeks in Beijing, Singapore, Dubai, Ethiopia, Kenya and Malaysia. The international schools often enroll children of diplomats. The kids are good students, class sizes are small and it’s a great chance to travel.
“Travel is amazing,” Andersen said. He has witnessed poverty in Africa and fabulous wealth in Dubai. There, he and his wife, Laura, an academic adviser in mechanical engineering at Montana State University, went downhill skiing in an indoor mall in the middle of the desert.
Besides his travels, Andersen is also active in Montana’s Board of Public Education, serving as the board’s vice chair by appointment of Governor Steve Bullock. Andersen’s own father was a math professor; before that, he worked for the railroad, operating a telegraph, something son Paul still marvels at, given his own Internet experience.
Finally, over in Colorado, according to the Denver Business Journal, Boulder-based Prima-Temp has received $25,000 in venture capital for its Priya device, “a fertility sensor that continuously tracks a woman’s core body temperature and detects the subtle changes that occur before ovulation and sends her an alert.” Prima-Temp received the funds at technology seed fund 1776’s “Challenge Cup” event, which sponsors startups worldwide. First prize ($50,000) went to a Dubai startup.