Why I’ll Be on the Roadtrip to Pando: Design Strategist Marc O’Brien

Marc O’Brien

Why I’ll Be on the Roadtrip to Pando: Design Strategist Marc O’Brien

By   |  Jul. 27, 2017

Marc O’Brien is co-facilitating the ROADTRIP TO PANDO in late September with John Bielenberg.  The two of them took an exploratory trip to the Pando clone last year with students from the California College of the Arts.  Now they’re going back — and taking us with them. 

Marc has been a member of the core Pando Populus team since the early days and is a founder of the San Francisco-based companyThe Determined.  He shares thoughts on the ROADTRIP TO PANDO below, and what he expects.Read more about the ROADTRIP TO PANDO here and get your own seat on the bus!


How have you come to the place to where you’re making this ROADTRIP TO PANDO? What’s gotten you here?

I’ve been part of Pando Populus since 2014. Along with John Bielenberg and Tucker Nichols, I helped create its initial visual direction. Since then, I’ve been advising Eugene (co-founder) and others on the team with design and marketing strategies to help get Pando Populus in front of as many people as possible.

I’ve always had an interest in environment conservation and environmental awareness. The last few years, I’ve been creating opportunities to merge this interest with my skill sets and Pando Populus aligned perfectly. It’s been great to be part of Pando from the early stages and seeing it grow into what it is today. I’m looking forward to the road trip and beyond.

You’re best known as a designer. What’s unique about the way you look at Pando and its significance?

I believe that design has the ability to inform people on important issues and to move them towards doing something about it.

A number of my previous initiatives have incorporated adventure, travel, and on-the-ground workshop facilitation. The photo above is of a bamboo bicycle from one of the adventure projects I’ve spearheaded.  The Alabamboo Make & Ride is a cross-country bike ride help promote a new, sustainable, bamboo industry in hopes of building up a local southern economy.

After visiting the Pando forest in UT, I thought to myself, “How do we get more people to Pando, to see the forest firsthand? Could we get people together, immerse them in this environment, educate them on why Pando is important, and come up with ways to help bring more attention to this dying forest?” 

What’s your motivation to be on the trip? Why are you going?

I believe that when you get a group of people together to work on something bigger than themselves, truly amazing things happen. I’ve seen it happen and I know it will happen under the aspen trees.

Pando is symbol of life. It’s something that has been here long before this country was founded. It is our duty to take care of it. If we don’t save Pando, I believe this will be a slippery slope for other environmental destruction and collapse that we allowed to happened… knowing that we could have done something to stop it from happening.

We are the only ones who have the ability to correct our mistakes to ensure that all life can continue to live on our planet in peace and balance.

What’s a private ambition you hope for?

Two things. 

First, while we are there, I hope that we all come up with ideas on how we can save this place. I want to walk away with concrete ideas, action items, and a roadmap on how we are going to do this. 

Second, I hope that the participants on this inaugural roadtrip will visit Pando and learn from it and one another, and then go back and rethink how they live in the world. I truly hope that the more people who see these beautiful trees will have the knowledge, tools, and drive to take action on issues they feel passionate about.

What would make the experience one of the most amazing trips you’ve ever been on?

Leaving Pando and coming back home to San Francisco with about 25 new friends, all of whom shared this one-of-a-kind experience with me.

I’m certain that we will continue to work on efforts to save Pando along with pursuing interests that align with someone’s passions and drive. Also, I see this first trip laying a solid foundation for future trips with more people. Imagine if the Pando forest becomes a place of inspiration, education, action?


Want to be part of this?  Read more about the ROADTRIP TO PANDO. Get your ticket here.

Marc O’Brien has been working with people who give a damn since 2009. He is the co-founder of The Determined, a creative studio for a climate-resilient world. He’s also an adjunct instructor at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA.

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