"growing a better america" talks about environmental causes and the creation of the mother nature network. this is about 45 minutes. [applause] >> good evening, how's everybody doing? [cheers and applause] great to be here. i really appreciate the opportunity to come here, share thoughts with you, tell the story to you, and i had the pleasure of coming in the past, always enjoyed it, heard great speakers, and it's a true honor to have the podium here for a minute or two, so as you know, and as has been noted, my real job is i'm a musician. i'll tell you a story of how i learned to play the piano. i learned by listening to my mother. she was not a professional or teacher or anything like that, but she'd play for enjoyment,
and she was good, you know, so now i was the baby of the family, and my brother and sister, when i was very young, five or six years old, were in school, dad working, and often it was just me and mom in the house. i loved listening to her play and said, mom, come play me something, and she'd oblige. sometime she'd say, chuck, you do something. you make up a melody. she showed me cords and simple melodies and things, and finally after a year i was enjoying this and starting to learn the instrument pretty good, and i thought this is what i wanted to do for the rest of my life, i made up my mind. i said i wanted to be a musician. i was excited. i was 7 years old, found my mother to tell her and said, mama, mama, she said, wow, chuck, you're worked up, son, what's going on? i said, mama, i made a big
decision. she said, realm, take a deep breath. what's on your mind? mama, i decided oint to be a -- i want to be a musician when i grow up. she smiled and said, honey, you can't do both. [laughter] [applause] boy, was she right. [laughter] i'm still struggling with that two-word phrase, "responsible adult." i'm not sure about that. [laughter] you know the difference between a mu in addition and municipal bond? municipal bond eventually matures and makes money. [laughter] this evening not here in my capacity as a musician, but as in my other roles in life. in particular, my interest in the environment, but also as a forest land owner and tree farmer. what is a rock n roller here
talking about these things and why is he with a public relations guru to put together a website called the mother nature network? there's a logical answer for this. it's all my wife's fault. [laughter] rose lane, my wife's family, have been connected to the land as farmers, tending cattle, and tending forestland, and also just as being good stewards of the land, having a passion and respect for the lea, and by the way, she was going to be here tonight, but she got ill and couldn't make it. i like to brag about her. she's my better three quarters, partner in crime, and by the way, this past year, this year, we celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary. that's not too bad is it?
[applause] thank you. we get a lot of comments like that. 38 years? well, how have you done that. what's the secret? i tell folks it's simple because marriage is much like photographic film. it has to be developed in the dark. [laughter] so when i was dating the farmer's daughter back in the early 70s, and as we began to get serious, the time came i had to go meet the farmer and the family, and as you guys might imagine, i was a 21-year-old young hippy rock and roll hippy with hair down to here. i was nervous that day, but it worked out, and her family welcomed me with open arms, if perhaps, with some curiosity and with a little bit more than
concern, i'm sure. [laughter] going back even further than that, those of us who are children of the 60s, i think we all remember the cultural and social revolution going on during those days, and certainly environmentalism was a part of that, and i think that was my first awareness, remember the times, smokestacks were spewing horrible things into the air. factories and manufacturing companies put terrible things into our riverways, water, and oceans, and there was quite a protest against these thing, and i think to a degree, those protests brought about some very positive change. the epa was born, rules and regulations came into place, and i think there was just a new attitude towards our environment. that attitude laid dormant as i pursued my musical career until i met my wife and her family, and as we wept to the country -- went to the country on the
weekend and home days, and i got to know them better, their love, passion, and true respect for the land began to rub off on me, and then in 1981, her grandmother passed away leaving her about a thousand acres a land with a house we called home place, and now it's our responsibility to carry on this heritage, generational heritage of stewardship of the land, and i did not take this lightly, although, i'll admit, i didn't know a lot about it, i was unprepared, and so i decided i better prepare myself, and i took a little self-education journey, do the right thing by the family and by the land, so i went to the library, checked out books on land use, asked owners what they do with their land and why they did it that way, went to meetings and seminars, enrolled in a correspondence course when i was touring with the fabulous thunder birds.
maybe you remember that texas blues band called enough enough. remember that? all right. [laughter] i worked with the t birds for a year and a half, and that's how long it took me to take the course. i worked on it whenever i had the chance to do so, and when i finished it, i had a bit of confidence in understanding land use and res, and we discussed a number of things to do with the land. again, it was a diversified farm with crops, cattle, and timber lands, but i realized -- we looked into different trees, but all of that requires a lot of day-to-day work on my part, and we couldn't really afford to hire a manager, 5e7b we wanted -- and we wanted to do this ourselves any way, but the more i read and studied on forestry, i became fascinated with it.
for one thing, it fit my situation. i could pursue my career as a musician, it didn't require so much day-to-day work, and it's a very long term view of the use of the land, and i kind of like that idea. i had to reremind myself where a piano comes from that gives me my livelihood which is the wood. many things come from that. trees and forests do more than that for us. they give us materials to build homes, schools, churches, materials for books and magazines and newspapers, and there's some 5,000 products that use some element of trees in them. they do more than that. they clean our air and water. they provide home and shelter to wildlife, and do something else for us i think.
they give us a wonderful place to repose and think about our lives. ralph waldo emerson said in the woods we return to reason and faith. so rosy and i decided this was our mission and use of the land. we managed the land, planted trees, managed not only for the trees, but for the biodiversity that exists on the landscape. this led to advocacy work, the first book, "forever green, understanding the forest," and i wanted to put an honest face on the forest, where we have been, where we are, and where we're going, which led to the children's book, "the tree farmer," and then to the more recent release, the book here tonight, we have 4 # 00 million
in the country by 2040 or more and all the pressure on our lands and some loss to the lands due to the pressure and how to deal with it, of course, is the subject of that book, you know, as i would record or tour with some of these artists that i worked with, rolling stones and eric clapton, and george harrison and other artists, i talked about trees, and thee guys sometimes scratched their head, here he goes again. [laughter] it's always the trees, you know? when we would really engage in conversation about these things and these issues, believe it or not, mic and keith and eric, nay all have the same concerns for our environment that we do, and so many other musicians and actors and people in the entertainment business share a deep concern about our environment, and so then one day, this guy that i'd kind of become friends with that happens
to be in the advertising and public relations business calls me up on the phone, and he said, chuck, what are you doing? i said, well, i'm hanging, why? you in town? yeah, i'm in atlanta. he said, listen, come by the office, i was a crazy idea, but i want to discuss something with you. i said, all right, sure. i show up there, and he says, listen, you know, i represent some pretty big name clients, coca-cola, at&t, big companies, and these companies come to me, they made big changes in the way they do business, the way they treat their energy use, and they made positive changes in their practices, and they want to get these messages about what they are doing out over the internet. i said, look, i have no problem where to send them when it's print media or whatever. i've been doing research and looking around, and i just can't find something i feel
comfortable. can you tell me anything? i said, well, joel, i think you're probably right, man. i know most of the sites, and there's decent sites out there, and we went through some on the screen, and i said, man, you're right, there's no really iconic site, nothing that stands head and shoulders above the rest, that's comprehensive covering all aspects, does it in a fun and engaging way without preaching at you, just gives good information. i said, you know, i told him that's my point of view, and he said, well, you want to build it? i say, huh? [laughter] what do you mean build it? he said, i mean, build it. i think i can get the resource, and if you'll come in with me, i'll resign my position, and we'll start a company together. well, i was shocked and scared, but i was intrigued, and so this
is the story of how the odd couple, the rock and roll guy and the public relations guru form the mother nature network, mnn.com. this is an amazing journey for me. i learned so much with our staff that works so hard to get the information up and running, keep it current, and keep it changing, and find the important stories out there. i learned so much on this journey, and i'm truly grateful for the ride, and to flush out the story and give his perspective, welcome my dear, dear friend, the ceo, president, of the mother nature network, my pal, my partner, joel babbit. [applause] >> chuck's so modest, and i say it from my heart, it's such a
privilege for me, and it's because he's with the rolling stones. that's only an evening when you -- advantage when you look for tickets and stuff like that. [laughter] but from a spiritual and human stand point, it's for different reasons, and he's really just a great partner. i told you i was going to tell this story. you still don't mind? [laughter] when i talk about modest, i mean, because, you know, even though it's untrue, and i've been accused of the opposite, and i can realize opposites attract, but in terms of modesty, i must tell you, chuck called me several months ago, and he said, hey, i'm going to be in town, you want to have lunch. i said, yeah, i'll meet you at bones. we were at bones having lunch,
and i see this guy, you know, at 9 reception -- the reception area. he waves. it's an older man who was a client of mine years ago. chris, not somebody you know i don't think, but anyway, he came over, i said this is chuck leavell, this is so and so, and i said what's going on? i was supposed to meet somebody here at 12. they are going to be 15 minutes lay. i said, sit with us. he said, chuck, you a client of joel's? he said, oh, no, i'm a musician, and, you know, sitting with me probably thinks he's playing at the holiday inn lounge or something [laughter] chuck didn't say it though. he wouldn't come out and say it. oh, a musician, what do you play? piano. oh. what music you play? mainly rock n roll.
this is just, you know, i'm crawling under the table. [laughter] that's all? you play by yourself or a band? i play with a band most of the time, yeah. it just goes on. y'all play around here? we played here a few times, yeah. [laughter] the guy says, well, what's the band? i'll ask my kids, maybe they heard of it. [laughter] the rolling stones. oh, that's good, no really, what's the name of the band? [laughter] finally he admitted who he played with, but it was like pulling teeth. i mean, my god. i would have announced it in the first second, you know? of introduction. [laughter] but he has been terrific, and in addition to being a great guy, also a great partner because he is so committed to the environment and really is a large part of the conscious of the site, so back to chuck's story, let me just tell you the reason there was this void that
existed is bloc of this. you had this little group of scientists, activist, and experts a few years ago. they were the only people who cared about the environment for the most part. nobody else cared. the websites start for that group. eventually, it became so popular that is it evolved into a mainstream movement, soccer moms, business people, teenagers, college students. it became a mainstream movement, but the websites never evolved in the same way. they stayed focus on that group, all very technical, very academic, very political, most of them, and mainstream people would be going to the site, and they were way over their head. nobody understood anything. we thought there was an opportunity to fill that void, and that's really how this started, so i think -- oh, you know what? no, this was -- hold on.
you have to turn the remolt control on with the remote control. [laughter] i'm serious. i've never seen that, and i don't know how to do it. here, okay. [laughter] would you just admit, it's not that i didn't know how to do it -- >> it's very complex. >> you have to turn this on though; right? >> yes, you do. [laughter] >> so that was the void that we saw, and we launched a little over two and a half years ago, january of 2009, and it was designed for a mainstream audience meaning comprehensive, very easy to understand, engaging, and nonpolitical, and that was the model that we went in with, and here is the results, so in is alexa, one of the leading ranking services in internet. it's owned by amazon, so in
their environmental category, they have 7,080 sites, world sites, non-profits, everything. we are now number three in the world. we just surpassed -- [applause] thank you. we just surpassed the epa and the national park service, and way ahead of herself and discovery and nature conserve van sigh. the only two about is us noaa and care, so we don't know how much higher we can get in this thing with that competition, but, you know, a few years ago we were 3,000, which i thought was good at that time. [laughter] we moved up. chuck mentioned the staff and really it's unbelievable. i do think, just as an aside for this audience, that lance is really, you know, we talk about how great atlanta is all the time, or try to, and not enough
attention it given to the media part, the press part. you know, it's really a center that people don't recognize. i mean, you have -- yes, you have cnn and turner, but there's web md, weather channel, cox, cue mew louse media, but it's a great place to start a business like this because there's so much talent out there, they come from cnn, turner, cox, web md, the weather channel, and we paid them half of what they were making -- [laughter] and they all came over. little choice in the matter, but, you know -- [laughter] no, really, they are here. emily murphy i really want to recognize, the managing editor, and has done a fantastic job. rereally have a tremendous staff. 70% of our content is original, by the way, to very unusually as you know. this is our visits. we've had 10 consecutive
quarters of growth, 20% plus. we reached almost 3 million people every month from 200 country, and so the next quarter's about to end, and the end of this month, and we'll have had our 11th consecutive quarter. this is going to end at some point. [laughter] i'm very concerned because, you know, you can't keep going like this, but -- [laughter] i'll have to come out with another graphic and chart when that happens. [laughter] we have been, you know, as we were introduced, it's been -- we spent no money in advertising because i know it doesn't work because i wasted everybody else's money learning that lesson. [laughter] you know -- [laughter] the new green cnn, a great article by "time," and we were voted the best green idea by fortune last year, and "usa today" says we're a fast
company, and i love bloomberg and those who wallow in scientific jargon. we had tremendous success on the sponsor front, and the only reason i mention this is not because who they are, but it has a relevance to this audience in a very big way, and i'll show you why. this is how we do sponsorships. this is our content arrangement, if you will. we have eight different, what we call channels, and 3 # category -- 32 categories within those. each category is sponsored by one individual company for an entire 12 month term, so take this as an example. this is the computer category. there may be 8,000 pages in the category. you can go to all 8,000 pages, 24/7/365 and you won't see any
gadgets other dell. it is, by the way, a lot of people in this industry say, well, what affect does that have on editorial? they have no impact on editorial. everyone i talk to when we pitch them says, well, wait a second, you know, if our company did something bad, by mistake, and it's possible -- [laughter] it's possible that that story would appear in the same area that we're sponsoring. i said, no, it's not possible. it's definite. it will happen because if we lose our credibility, we lost everything, so we really strive to be a -- to be very disciplined about that. i'll tell you the truth now
about georgia pacific, they are the greatest company for us in the world and biggest supporter, but the day before i was supposed to sign the contact with them, we had a story about toilet paper being bad for you, which i still don't understand by the way, editorially, but they happened to be the largest toilet paper manufacturer in the world, not good times, but nonetheless they admitted they didn't want to be with someone whostles not -- who was not credible. the good thing about the model is it's not just this exclusivity. it is not advertising in the traditional sense, so i give you this example. this is the unit by sponsors, and what it is is five video and interactive boxes. these are two or three minutes long. they are not commercials. they are really much more educational and informative. like coke uses theirs for -- this is a climate change
program, give it back, i think is a program for the boys and girls club. this is products they have that don't have sweeteners in it and hydration calculator, and then there's a connection to facebook and then to their site, which is live positively. it's more corporate communications, pr, executive visibility, thought leadership, that kind of thing than it is advertising, and you can see from the sponsors we've gotten in two and a half years that a lot of people want to do that kind of stuff. a lot of people say, you know, oh, your site is clean and well designed, and i appreciate that, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that we don't have regular advertising like everybody else. the reason that i say this is so relevant to this audience is that when you have these discussions about content, paying for content, you know, the "new york times" where they decided to start paying -- you have to start paying for content was such a major subject, and
everybody said, well, there's no way you can make money on the internet unless you charge for content. everybody says that. it's true, if you leave your advertising model the same, but everybody just made that assumption. they said, hey, you can't make money in the advertising business, because, you know, it's going to stay the same. let's assume there, so therefore you have to charge for content. they never thought, well, what if you change this parable? this parable allowed us to make money while providing a good service and value to our sponsors. i think it's 100 times more effective -- i just used that statistic -- it's a well researched statistic -- [laughter] seriously, i don't know what the multiple is -- [laughter] it's very much -- i can tell you the sponsors get more value from this format than traditional advertising. they pay more, but they get a lot more, and i think that is a
message about the paid sites that because unless you're the weather channel, maybe cnn, google, you know, you have to have billions of people to make money selling on a cpm basis, for those of you who are familiar with that model, most of you are journalists, but your very much affectedded -- affected by the advertising market, and it's on the cpm basis, and you don't make money unless it's billions of pages, unless you change the way you do it, and we think we came up with a way that is to everyone's benefit, and so, that's it. [laughter] i appreciate the time, glad we were asked to do this, and it's an honor for me to do it with the atlanta press club of which i i tended -- attended so many meetings, so thank you for your time. [applause]
one request, raise your hand, and don't speak with this microphone in prompt of your face. let the questions begin. [laughter] >> question for chuck. any thoughts on gibson guitars, legal problems? >> what a strange thing that was. for those of you who may not know, the united states rated the gibson guitar company and shut them down because they were buying wood from india and making guitars here in the united states with that wood. it was the squirrelliest thing i ever heard of in my life. it was a disturbing policy that should have never happened in my opinion. that's my feeling. it's ridiculous, and if that's the law, the law needs to be
changed. >> [inaudible] [laughter] >> i the first guitar i bought was back in 65 or something, 64, and i'm not worried about that now. the story broke now and gave people a lot to think about, and hopefully this silliness will stop. >> i really respect what you do and the fact you're using journalism to share the word here in a way that people can understand, but on the flip side, i'm interested in the role that pr played in the success of the site because i know your pr person is amazing, and i'm entreesed in knowing how important that was to you. >> well, it was very important because we spent no money in advertising. we relied entirely on pr.
i will say that it helps when your partner is with the rolling stones. [laughter] i always joked that if it was just me, it would be in my kids' school news letter, father starts new business opposed to "time" and "fortune". with chuck, though, he's more than a pretty face. he knows the subject. [laughter] you see people in advertising talking about a subject, paid a million dollars, and they have no idea what they are talking about. they go up there, record a commercial, and then, you know, chuck's the most knowledgeable. he sits with congressmen, senators, scientists. he knows what he's talking about, and to use the word "authentic" which is overused these days, but that is a major part of our business. it is. you know, how else do you get the word out there? there's only so far that word of mouth will go, and i have always said that pr is much more
effective than advertising because it's much more credible, so we've been very fortunate in that regard. >> i'll say i'm good at faking it, so -- [laughter] >> by the way, i didn't mention this. chuck has a role in the upcoming bill lill bob -- billy bob thornton movie, but i think chuck has one line. he practiced this same line over and over. we sit on a plane, i forget the line. it was four or five words. it's like he was rehearsing a monologue or something, but, yeah, what's that coming out? >> it's robert duvall, i didn't want to mess it up. i think it's out next fall. there's not a release date set yet, but billy said it'd be late next year.
it's a script billy co-wrote, stars in, directs, and it's marvelous, funny, serious, and i know you'll all really enjoy it, and it was an honor to do it. billy called me, we've been friends, he said, listen, i need a band, young guys who understands 60s music. i said, i think i can help you. the guys auditioned, got the gig, and he was grateful, and he said, that worked out. thank you so much. we have not filled the keyboard spot. you know, they used to sometimes have an older guy in the band. [laughter] i said, oh, i can do that, yeah i can do that, 10 he graciously put me in, and he said there's an another line, you get to say one line, only one line in a short scene, but you get to do it to bobby duvall, and i said i'm in for that, no doubt about that. >> what was the line? >> i can't remember. [laughter] you'll have to wait for the movie.
>> on the website then from a revenue stand point, you don't do the add america thing? it's all sponsored per section? >> it is, but before joel gives the correct answer, let me say when we discussed this, one of the things we both decided is we're really not wanting those flashy ugly pop up ads that just distract you, spin around, look silly, and are a pain in the but to deal with, so joel came up with this. >> no, we don't. we have -- we take no advertising from anybody who is not a sponsor. we use no ad network. we're approached all the time by ad networks saying you're not selling 100% -- we have done well, but not 100%. they say, we'll take it and sell the rest of it. i said, no, we don't do that. but that's how everybody else
does it, but we don't. it's not easy. it takes discipline, which i have very little of normally, but it's worked out for best. i mean, it is -- it's a better thing for everybody, so the sponsors, for the visitors, for us, and i'm glad we've done it that way. yes? >> hi. kind of a continuation to that point. you've done -- this is wonderful success, but have you thought about expanding into another area like a conference or other publishing or other kinds of properties whether they are revenue generating or not to expand the brand into those kinds of areas? >> well, yeah, i mean, we looked at everything, you know. i come up with at least 10 ideas every day immediately shot down, but we have looked at, you know, there's a tremendous opportunity, i think, with
children's books and game, you know, and so there was "sesame street" teaching letters, numbers, and colors, and there's what's that thing? dora that teaches different languages, barney. i'm not sure what he teaches, but -- [laughter] you know, these things, but there's nobody taking that position in environmentalism, and yet it's the most important thing for kids and teachers now with the name mother nature, it's like the authority, and we've talked about. that i will say that we are introducing weather to our site in the next hopefully month, and it will be very, very different than anything else, but we think weather is a huge area to expand into, and we talked about having conferences. you know, we just, we have our priorities, and we're trying to do things one step at a time,
but i think conferences would be very good. also, there's cruises. they have theme cruises like old rock n roll bands or authors -- >> what do you mean old? [laughter] >> row sigh o'donnell cruise z. [laughter] they have everything. why not an environmental cruise and it's mother nature -- it makes sense, so i don't know. you know, it's not a matter -- there's a million great ideas out there which is, i think, from a business standpoint one of the hardest things is not coming up with new ideas. there's many of them, figuring out which ones do you really focus on. that's hard. >> you made a good point about atlanta being a place where
there's a great media business. how profortble is mother -- profitable is mother nature network? i agree because it has to stick around. host it going? how are you doing? [laughter] >> no, we're doing great. we're not making billions of dollars, but we're way above break even, which after two and a half years is pretty good. [applause] you know, we are doing -- i mean, relatively we are doing well. if you're making profits these days, it's good, and for us to be doing that in -- i will tell you this, had we used the traditional cpm model based on our traffic, we would not be making money. we would not be making anywhere where we're making now. it was because of that changing model that allowed us to be profitable, but, you know, we're not wildly profitable, but we're
way above break even, and i find that to be, you know, very positive thing. i think this coming year, you know, you got to understand the first year, i was out there selling and we had no traffic, we had no other sponsors. chris welmac from southern company is here, one of our first sponsors, and i presented to him, thank god he signed on. who's the other sponsors? i can't tell you it's confidential. [laughter] because we had no other sponsors at that time. he believed me. no, but really, it's easier with the success we've had, and you start a list of sponsors now, shows his good judgment, by the way, but it's easier now obviously than it was a year ago, and it'll be easier a year from now, so -- >> hello. how would you describe your impact of -- how would you describe the site impact on
society and your sponsors for having to be involved with you and they have to stand behind that message. >> chuck? >> well, hopefully we're giving, and i think we are, very accurate information, but doing it in an engaging way. one of the things on the site that's interesting is translating uncle sam. if you go to the epa or noaa or other governmental sites, it looks like a spread sheet when they present information. it's very boring, hard to digest, and you have to go through, get a ruler and try to figure out what they are talking about, and so our team, day after day after day goes and finds this information, writes a new graphic for it, a new headline, and they make it engaging and interesting where you have digest it and understand it. that's what we really want to do with our fabulous team that works on these things, present, you know, i'm an environmentalist. i care about these, and i think
everybody in the room does, and we're all looking for information, accuracy, what can we do better? how can we change lives? make little steps that add up to big steps? that's the mission, is to give that information in a way that people can understand it, digest it, and then apply it. >> which pages get the most attention and people stay on them the longest with the various categories, and the second question say this is a flash in the pan. environmentalism is a fad. how will you succeed in four years? >> in terms of the first question, pets do unbelievable. [laughter] pets is amazing. also, as y'all know, you know, corky stories, like you can write the most important story about iraq, and it gets less coverage than what whitney houston ate at rehab or something, you know?
no figuring that out. [laughter] in terms of categories, pets, wilderness, resources, tourism -- major thing now. ecotourism is taking off tremendously, and nose are some of the top categories. transportation is very big. a lot of this has to do also with search engine on the optimization, though, you know, not everybody puts in mother nature network, maybe it's hybrid cars or organic gardening. that's how we get traffic as well, but those are the top categories. in terms of being a fad, when we started this two and a half years ago, i can't tell you how many said it's hot now, but it's going to be gone. not only is it not a fad, it is becoming more and more a part of what we find as acceptable culture. it's, you know, you may have
seen this story -- it was on the front page of the "new york times" about plastic bags in schools. it's an embarrassment now to the kids come with these plastic bags because they feel guilty their parents are irresponsible. [laughter] the sales have gone down. tupperware and container storage. it's also demographic shift because the teenagers and young people are into -- and where they work is even, you know, you read a lot -- how responsible is the company, is a major factor in how they go to work, and these teenagers, you don't want them mad at you. you'll have nobody to fix your computers at home, you know? [laughter] i don't know what to do if you do that. [laughter]
>> well, this is an interesting follow-up to what you were saying. we're now seeing a little bit of a backlash. we're seeing statistically that we're fewer people are believing in global warming, that we've seen a shift in that, and i'm curious to your response of that that people are suspect to a lot of this. >> well, that's not what i'm finding. i don't know what research you're referring to, but i can just tell you that everybody i know cares about this stuff, and, you know, my new book has done well off the shelf here, immediately, i think a lot of people are concerned about these issues. we're going to be facing it again. you know, 310 million people, 400 million coming. what's after that? you know, we have 4.5 million paveed and unpaved roads in the country, 250 million vehicles riding the roads, 87,000 planes in the skies every day, 276
cities in our country with over 100,000 in population. any way you look at it, it's a tremendous amount of pressure, tremendous amount of pressure on our population, our natural lands, and here's a few numbers for you about natural lands, atlanta loses between 50-100 acres a day to the development, we're on the low end because of the economic downturn, but when things are kicking, it's 100 acres 5 day. southeast texas loses a million acres, and 300 more people year after year -- 3 million peel all have to have a police station to work, -- place to work, school, live, shop, so i think people are concerned about these things. i think they are looking for ways to alleviate that pressure and find ways -- i'm not saying
i'm anti-growth. that's inevitable. i couldn't stop it if i wanted to, but the real question is how do we deal with it? what changes can we make? that's the information we want to provide. i think that's the kind of information most americans are looking for, you know, how can we deal with it? >> i just want to comment on research that i'm sure what you saw did say that, but research is the biggest scam ever in the -- [laughter] whoever came up with this idea, it is the -- because i'll get you -- whatever objective you want to reach, i'll do a study, and it'll prove that. let me tell you, you know, i'll give you five surveys done showing our audience is totally different from one to the other. everybody says which do you use? i say depends on which sponsor i talk to. if they want to reach women, i have that. want to reach men? i got that one. want to reach old people? i got that one. i'm sures. you can do what you want with
numbers, and whoever is behind the study, you know the old saying, you usually hear what you want to hear when somebody talks. it's like that with research. you get the results you want to get if you do the study. if the neonazis do research, they'll find out everybody hates jews. it's who is doing it and what do they want to achieve. anyway, one more question. >> hi, first off, thank you. i'm from california, a drought society, so water conservation has been an issue, and i know you cover this on your website, and in development they don't talk about how big cities like ours or this one now are competing for water supplies. are there thing onts site dealing with development and our own personal use over how much water and gas we use every day? >> well, absolutely, and i'll let joel address those specifics, but we are so pleased to have what we believe is the
world's premier person in water issues on our board of directers, and that is alexandra custo who brings attention to the matter. what's the name of the -- i think she had a term for the -- blue legacy is her website, thank you, and i would encourage people interested to go and check that out, and you'll see the results of her tour. she documented it. she found a lot of the problems that exist across the country in bringing attention, and we're so proud to have her on the team. >> i'll only say water is a huge subject, and the way we cover it is we have a beverage category that's relevant to that. we have an energy category. it's relevant to that. we have a resources category, a
food category, so it really spans across so many different topics. you don't want to limit it to just, you know, one thing, and that's how we do it, so thank you so much, everyone. >> appreciate it. [applause] for more on chuck leavell and his work, visit chuckleavell.com. >> what do you think? do you think he did as well with the other architects who came along in his life? he had a very good relationship with -- >> hh richardson. >> yeah. that was fabulous, and he died at 45 or something. >> yeah. i don't think he found a partner that he worked with as well as vox, and also who thought about as much, i mean, vox brought about prospect park.
it was originally supposed to be two separate pieces of land with a bridge, and vox said let's make it one piece of land. vox not only thought about the landscape, but provided ideas. i think olmstead had division of labor partnerships. literally richardson was designing structures, olmstead, landscape, and what's more, some of the folks like richardson had such massive ego that he was going to design a bridge looking however he felt it should look. olmstead was willing to accept the relationship because there's that many businesses in the park to design, so -- >> yes. i think a lot of interesting other topics came up. the chicago world fair, though, to me, was amazing because here is this guy now in his 80s?
>> 70s, i think. >> late 70s, yeah. >> he was old. >> he was old at that time, and just the fact you mentioned google, but travel, you know, you have all 6 these commissions -- excuse me, all the commissions going on at the same time, and here he is doing this wash job for the chicago -- talk about that. >> sure. olmstead was not at all at ease or calm at his old age. being in your late 60s or 70s then was an old age. you outlived your contemporaries, and olmstead did not settle into a restful latter years. he became fevered. the reason is because land scape architecture is so different from a painting or a work of music because it's never final. he had a real anxiety that after he was gone, all of his work would be undone. he spent his whole adult life fighting against people meddling
against central park. everybody wanted to stick a race course or whatever in there. there's battling to fight those things. he had a sense because they pioneered land scape ark tegture and he felt once he was gone, things would be reversed. there's a couple commissions, and the world's fairground one of them and late in life, he was desperate to stake his reputation. by an old man of the standards of that day, he hurdled all over the united states taking on commissions in milwaukee, kansas city, denver, ashville, north carolina, going down to the biltmoore estate, worked on the chicago world's fair, came up with a formula giving half the tapings to the chicago world's fair, half of the attention to the biltmoore state, and also gave attention, already used
100%, to milwaukee, ect., and what we how old do is he'd be working on the chicago world fairgrounds, literally, when he sensed there was a break in the action, he'd sneak down to ashville where his client was the richest man, sneaked off to louisville, close to ashville, did work on that park system, and he was desperate, traveling around, taking late night raillines, securing that reputation, and making sure he left a big lasting legacy. figured if he did enough parks, you know, maybe some of them would last. >> and writing letters all the time. i mean, we've all forgotten -- we send e-mails to people, and who knows they'll probably vanish, but for an ark architect, that's fabulous. he wrote thousands of letters. >> he did. it was wonderful. it was a 19th century. olmstead was very much sort of a man about talents, had a lot of
friends, and the best way to describe it if olmstead crossed the street, he wrote about it. several friends. either had diary entries or letters about olmstead crossing the street. it created this kind of, you know, oh, there's so many different, you know, takes on any given action, but at least -- it was an embarrassment of riches basically to be able to have so many acts in his life for him to account for them very insightfully often in long -- nothing like e-mails today, 10 to 15 pages of explanation of him being enraged about a park design rolled back, and all the other people, sent letters, responding and so forth, and there's a rich trove to dig into. >> nobody will be as easy to follow. there's lots of other people's opinion of your work to back it up 37 >> check their facebook
page. >> yeah, exactly. i wonder what his facebook page would look like. he also ate horrible food. his indict -- indict diet was terrible. >> yeah. >> in the early 1890s, he was brought back to prospect park to figure out where the tenant's house should go. he doesn't like it because it's a formal architect piece, but he does say at that time, this is the perfect park. now, there is a little preference in your book, i would say, significant. now, as somebody from prospect park, i agree with olmstead that that is the perfect park because he 4 all the money, complete freedom, and in central park,
had all those people, mr. greene, everybody picking on him, so i don't know. what do you think? >> well, well played. you even brought a quotation that i can't counter. >> i know that quote though. >> i found the letter in 1873 saying central park was -- >> he did love central park. >> he did, but he didn't, you know, it's -- but i guess -- i guess the way that i would attempt to count their is by saying it's the old, you know, i always think about these musicians like paul simon who was interviewed saying my orale work was simon and garfunkel, it was useful, ect.. i have this kind of feeling that artists are not the best authority on their own work, and
so i know olmstead felt that prospect park was the finest work, but i'll try to summon an argue that central park was the best based on that was his first work and like so many great artists, he brought all of this. i mean, that's when all of this spontaneity, all the ideas just came bubbling to the surface, and so that's where he goes from being a, you know, a surveyor turned farmer turned sailor, turned this, that, an the other, and things it to park work the the other suggestion is that central park, i feel, is a particularly masterful design because of the constraint. it's a perfect rectangle, a terrible shape for a park. central park, terrible piece of land, that's why it was chose p to be a park.
a wretched piece of land people didn't want. thought real estate would develop elsewhere in the city, and olmstead faced with that constraint on top of the competition he and vox entered into had mandatory demands, all things that had to be done in order to -- part of the mandatory demand elements. olmstead with this terribly constrained shape and piece of land, i felt he and vox brought the best creative thinking they could to try to make this very constrained space have a flow, have a sense of, you know, of grandeur and scale. the one thing that strikes me is you're talking about a park thars -- that's half a mile wide meaning you can't be more than a quarter mile away from civilization and roads. it's a considerable allusion that you can get lost in the park, be in the park and feel you're in nature, so that's my -- that's my sort of --
>> i'm going to add to that argument actually because i'm a fair person. >> appreciate that. >> is that he also got to keep coming back to it over and over again, so he goes away for a period of time, comes back, he keeps being brought in for a few questions, and then sort of sent away so they take some, but not all, and so i think from olmstead's perspective, he would probably have said that if he had to pick that central park was his baby, his first born, it was, you know, his everything, but i do think that in prospect park, we like to say they learned from their mistakes. [laughter] so they found somebody who was willing to fund the whole thing and not ask them a single question, and they were able to use the team they put together, and i think that's the other thing that is so interesting is his ability to manage was you pointed out that in many parts