Impact+Amplify promotes integrated whole systems
thought and proaction at both ecosystemic and cultural scale.


We seek to enable life-long learning and sustained, productive
collaborations among people of good will to integrate culture within nature.

By exploring the creative and working to minimize the destructive potential of the edge between environment and culture (nature and nurture), Impact+Amplify believes that disasters, be they "natural," health and/or social,
can be averted or their negative consequences mitigated.

We can learn to live together safely, heathily, prosperously and peacefully within nature's restorative capacity.

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The Second Annual
  Interfaith Conference on Care for Creation

was held APRIL 28, 2012 at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Roanoke, Virginia

The Rev. S. Finn
The Rev. K. Monge

Conference speakers (from left): The Rev. Seamus Finn, Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility,
and The Rev. Kathleen Monge, RN and Pastor, Fairview United Methodist Church.

L Pole
K. Redican

Conference speakers (from left): Laura Pole, founder and President of Eating for a Lifetime, is a Health Supportive Gourmet Chef,
a Registered Nurse, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Certified Nia Fitness Instructor and a professional musician,
and Dr. Kerry Redican, Professor, Learning Sciences and Technologies, Virginia Tech.

S. Samanta
S. Ahmed, MD
T. Cain
Lunch at the conference

Conference greeters (from top left): Dr. Suchitra Samanta, Instructor of Religion and Culture, Virginia Tech, from the Hindu community,
and Dr. Saleem Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Anatomy, The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, from the Muslim community.
Bottom (from left): Tom Cain, Executive Director, Impact&Amplify, the organic vegan lunch organized by Laura Pole.

      Youth Day for Interfaith Creation Care,
August 25, 2012, at Camp Bethel

Sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, Virginia Synod Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Virlina District, Church of the Brethren, Catholic Churches of the Roanoke Valley, Greene Memorial United Methodist Church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Calvary
Baptist Church, Second Presbyterian Church, First Christian Church, Plowshare Peace Center, Spirituality & Ecology Group

 $15 per person includes lunch, program leadership, plus pool time (optional).
 Register your group today at:
Camp Bethel, 328 Bethel Road, Fincastle, VA 24090.

For more information call 540-992-2940 or email
Click here to download a flyer for the Youth Day Event  pdf

Roanoke exists in time…
 published in the Roanoke Tribune August 11, 2011

The pattern for future development in the Roanoke Valley was determined in prehistory. At the end of the last glacial period, between 12,500 and 10,000 years ago, animals began making their way along Lick Run to the salt marshes and licks now buried under parts of downtown and of the Norfolk-Southern railyard. They established a trail near present I-581.

Paleo-Indian hunters followed the game. To improve the area surrounding the salt licks as a hunting ground, prehistoric people periodically burned the surrounding land to promote the growth of forage. The “Barrens” they created were the site of intermittent human settlement for 10,000 years before Mark Evans claimed 1,900 acres for the first homestead in the Roanoke Valley.

About 1740 Mark Evans began permanent settlement of the Roanoke Valley by building his home at Evans Spring and establishing a mill at Crystal Spring. A hundred and forty years later, the Norfolk and Western Railroad cited the reliable supply of fresh water from Evans Spring and Crystal Spring as a reason for choosing Big Lick as the site for its railhead. The City of Roanoke was born.

Miraculously, Evans Spring and some other contiguous parts of the prehistoric "Barrens” survive today. Absolutely irreplaceable historically and potentially crucial for successfully mitigating the potential for flooding of downtown Roanoke, the Barrens wetland and floodplain properties are currently the subject of municipal planning discussions. Given what’s at stake historically, environmentally and socially, the people of Roanoke should insist that the city administration not rush the process.

Beginning where it all began, Roanoke's past, its present and its future deserve full and careful examination, understanding, consideration and sober judgment.

by Tom Cain

Roanoke exists in nature…  Letter to the editor submitted to the Roanoke Times Aug 13, 2011

The announcement for the public planning meetings on the Evans Spring property describe the land as “vacant.” But, the historic floodplain and wetlands of Evans Spring and Lick Run are more properly understood as working land. They reduce the potential for flooding of downstream neighborhoods, Orange Avenue/Williamson Road, Roanoke’s central business district and the Norfolk Southern railyard.

Given that Roanoke has flooded five times in the last seventy-five years, the fact that city exist within nature and nature exists within the city should not be dismissed lightly.

In all cases, any potential impact of proposed changes in land use on Roanoke’s hydrology need to be understood as precisely as possible and carefully weighed.

As yet, Roanoke has no such conceptual framework to assist sound public judgment.

The current discussion considering land use changes to the critical wetlands and floodplain at Evans Spring and along Lick Run should not be rushed.

They should occasion the beginning of a public urban design process that looks at and understands the city as a functioning, integrated whole, not as a disjointed assemblage of parts.

by Tom Cain

“Blest be the tie that binds”      (Proposal for uniting Roanoke with a corridor for life-long learning)
                  Article submitted for publication in the August 18, 2011 edition of the Roanoke Tribune:

As readers of the Tribune know, Evans Spring is not just “…a name scrawled on a map from the 1700s.” The spring on the property is named for Mark Evans who claimed it about 1740 as part of the first homestead built in the Roanoke Valley. As a part of “the Barrens,” land maintained by Paleo-Indians from perhaps 8,000 B.C., it is a site of irreplaceable historic and cultural value.

As yet, the Commonwealth has no standard of learning for Southwest Virginia history. But that doesn’t mean that the history of this region is trivial. Far from it. Our region played a pivotal role in the settlement of this continent by Europeans and African Americans.

The floodplain and wetlands of Evans Spring and the Lick Run Watershed help to mitigate flooding of downstream neighborhoods, Orange Avenue/Williamson Road, Roanoke’s central business district and the Norfolk Southern railyard. The option of augmenting the natural topography of the Evans Spring land to increase the capacity of the property to temporarily impound stormwater during potential disaster events deserves thorough study and careful evaluation before any planning decision is made.

Roanoke has flooded five times in the last seventy-five years. Along with low-impact development strategies (rain gardens, vegetated roofs, permeable pavement, etc) implemented to restore the hydrology of the Lick Run Watershed, allowing slow release of water impounded for 2-3 days at Evans Spring could save money by helping extend the service life of and improving the functioning of the city’s existing stormwater infrastructure.

Allowing for periodic temporary flooding, the Evans Spring property could be developed as an internationally-themed nature reserve and botanic garden teaching how to live safely, healthily, prosperously + peacefully within nature’s restorative capabilities. There are places with climates similar to Roanoke’s on the Southeast corners of every continent except Antarctica. Plant materials from those places in Africa, India, China, Japan, Europe and Central and South America could form the basis for teaching about the global environment and how various cultures respond to it – their cuisines, medicines, spiritual beliefs, etc. Beyond delighting everyone, that kind of learning would help equip students (of any age) for well-paid careers in international business, sustainability science, public health, environmental art, etc.

Averting disasters, nourishing good health (preventative medicine), cultural understanding, etc. could form the program for a new cultural institution located in North Roanoke that would tie the entire community together for the first time. With physical linkage along the Lick Run Greenway among William Fleming, Countryside, Evans Spring, the Higher Ed Center, the Culinary Institute, downtown, Jefferson College, Virginia Tech-Carilion Medical School and Research Institute and programmatic and conceptual linkage to Virginia Western, the Governor’s School and Patrick Henry, Roanoke could develop a corridor for life-long learning that would make a visible statement about Roanoke’s intention to honestly and proactively address its past by establishing environmental and social justice as the reality of its developmental future.

by Tom Cain

Building Community by Design (published in the Roanoke Tribune August 25, 2011)

The psychiatrist and noted author Scott Peck has written that we build community out of crisis and we build community by accident, but we do not know how to build community by design.

The problem with building community out of crisis, he contends, is that once the crisis is over so is the community.

from “Collaborating to Make Democracy Work” - Final report of the Ninety-Ninth American Assembly, Columbia University

Ideas matter.

Historic Evans Spring could be developed in ways bring people of good will together - in full view of everyone - to establish and permanently proclaim social and environmental justice as core values for Roanoke's future growth. That’s an idea that should not be let go of lightly.

Given the amount of vacant and underutilized property that already exists, Roanoke probably does not need more commercial space. So why should the “idea” to do that win out? Developers should prove there is an actual need for what they propose.

The ancient, historic floodplain and wetlands of Evans Spring and those along the Lick Run Watershed are valuable to the entire region – not just the city. They cry out for development that doesn't do violence to nature, history or community.

There are ways to develop that North Roanoke property to definitively and visibly proclaim an end to the less worthy parts of the history of the past while initiating permanent programs and creative connections that would secure a united, safe, healthy, prosperous and peaceful community future.

We are proposing that an internationally-themed nature reserve and botanic garden could be developed as an immense asset for Roanoke and the headwaters region - environmentally, culturally, financially + socially. If this sounds like something you will want to help bring about, join in the planning by participating in the next planning session set for 10:00 a.m. Saturday, September 17 at the Community Action Center on 15th Street and Melrose Avenue, N.W.

Perhaps you have a better idea. When city staff ask what you want to see, give it some thought before you give them an answer. If that takes some time, require that you get it. Whatever you do, don’t drop out of the planning process, abdicating responsibility for its outcome. Participate!

by Tom Cain

The Encyclopedia of Earth is a free, peer-reviewed, searchable collection of content about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society, written by expert scholars and educators.

Living within Nature: Integrated whole systems thinking

The typical analytical process involves taking things apart to understand them. However the essential properties of living systems exist in the whole, not in the individual pieces. When we study environments and cultures, we must recognize and respect the connections among parts, in context with each other, and with the whole.

Resource efficiency

Because living systems are interdependent, resources applied to solve one problem may contribute to the solution of others. The value and effectiveness of investments of talent, time and treasure can be leveraged when we think and act at the level of whole systems.

Collaborative proaction for cumulative beneficial change

Big environmental problems often result from cumulative negative effects of many small adverse actions taken over time. Each of us can contribute individually to their solution. However, it is through informed and coordinated collective action among the many businesses, governments, and civil society institutions (including faith communities) that define our culture that we shall achieve cummulative improvements that signify at the level of watershed ecosystems.

We do not have the luxury of endless time to stop making mistakes and correct the ones we have made. Among our essential tasks is to figure out how to learn and work collaboratively and how to sustain positive collective proaction. That is Impact+Amplify's purpose and utility.

Averting disasters or mitigating their potential for harm

Most disasters ("natural," health and social) can be averted by learning to live safely, healthily, prosperously and peacefully within nature's restorative capacity. Humans must choose to adapt by creating and sustaining environments and cultures in balance with nature, however imperfectly we understand it. That is both the challenge and the opportunity of our age - and of our locale.

Civil Society Organization (an “NGO” defined as what it is, not what it isn’t.)

Without imposed limitations of time, place or subject matter, Impact + Amplify uses all the flexibility inherent in being a civil society organization to teach and promote integrated whole systems thought and proaction at both ecosystemic and cultural scale. We seek to enable life-long learning and sustained productive collaborations among people of good will.

Note: Often it is necessary to catalyze, facilitate and sustain connections and working relationships among governments, agencies, businesses, and organizations that, though understanding the need of and potential for flexible, creative collaborations, may be restricted (within "silos") by jurisdictional boundaries or established missions.

Please the American Assembly's document, "Collaborating to Make Democracy Work" about the creative role civil society institutions play in facilitating collaboration with government and businesses and with each other. [ See the Resources section of this website.]

strategies: time

Since civil society institutions are not restricted by business or electoral cycles, we are able to initiate and sustain long-range vision and creative proaction through the extended periods of time that may be needed to achieve beneficial and meaningful environmental and cultural change.

See the "Age of the Anthropocene" and "The Ecozoic Age" in the Resources section of this website.

strategies: place

Centered in creation: Humans are centered in creation by our ability to look both outward and inward at nature.

Looking outward at nature: Preserving, restoring and enhancing the hydrology and biodiversity of watershed ecosystems through integrated, proactive, low-impact development of forest and farm land and of the built environment [Please see the “Mountains to Sea” section of this website.]

Looking inward at nature: Nourishing health; physical, intellectual and spiritual [Please see the “Nourishing Health” section of this website. There your can download and fill out forms to create a personal medical history and a medical family tree.

Facilitating creation of a green and ethical regional economy that values and accounts both natural and human capital. There is no environmental justice that does not include social justice. Sabbath Economics [Please see the “Green and Ethical Economy” section of this website]

Genius Loci” (the spirit of place) How the environment has shaped and continues to shape history (plate tectonics, geology, topography, hydrology, biology and anthropology) [Please see the “Mountains to Sea” section of this website.]

The headwaters region: send solutions downstream (physically and metaphorically)

The Great Warrior Path, The Philadelphia Wagon Road, the Carolina Trail and the Wilderness Trail Consciousness about how have people lived within nature and how mountain and river ecosystems have shaped and been shaped by culture through time (past, present and future). Development of a regional natural and social history S.O.L.

Strategies: people

To some extent, people may have success distancing themselves from the majority culture. But no one exists outside of nature. Beginning with responsibility for the health of our own bodies, each of us must manage part of nature.

Participation strategies: people

When possible, Impact + Amplify seeks to work with and through existing institutions of our culture (partners and stakeholders). We invite personal participation in and financial support of our inclusive process of thought and proaction and in our evolving programs by individuals, faith or cultural communities, members of the Blue Ridge Environmental Network (BREN), cultural and educational institutions, governments, businesses and industries.

Participation Strategies: financial support

Tax-exempt contributions may be made through the Impact account, c/o the Plowshare Peace Center, POB 4367, Roanoke 24015.

Please see: The American Assembly’s document, “Collaborating to Make Democracy Work” about the creative role civil society institutions play in facilitating collaborations with government and business and with each other [a copy is posted in the Resources section of this Website].

Participation Strategies: contact information

  Impact + Amplify
Tom Cain
Executive Director
(540) 345-6579


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