UncategorizedNecessary Nature
Looking out across a wide expanse from a rocky cliff.

Necessary Nature

There’s not a lot of good news out there lately when it comes to the climate crisis. Despite decades of scientists sounding the warning about the repercussions of a warming planet, our collective response has been relatively too little, too late when it comes to major solutions. Now we are witnessing many of the most dire predictions becoming a reality.


One of the core reasons we are at this point is a lack of political will to create meaningful solutions at a national and international scale. There remains a disconnect between the general public and the people studying and working to address the climate crisis. The fact is, humans are not logical creatures, but emotionally driven. It’s not enough to inform people about the science of environmental issues. It’s not enough to scare people with the potential plethora of natural and social calamities that will inevitably arise from the continued degradation of our natural ecosystems. We need to appeal to our human emotions.


Fortunately, landscape architects are on the forefront of creating resilient places – designing with nature to combat the ill effects of climate change, while also restoring ecosystems to help clean the air and water, and put carbon back into the soil. It’s important and meaningful work that goes beyond just restoring ecosystems, to restoring human cultural relationships with nature. While every aspect of this work is important, I feel like the latter is getting lost in the conversation. Yes, landscape architects understand how to design with nature and to build or restore natural systems, but our work is central to framing human interaction with nature and place. Landscapes exist as an ongoing narrative in an age-old dialogue between culture and nature.

Gardens in Oregon

People need opportunities to connect with nature in all forms, the wild and scenic national and state parks and forests. But also their own little pieces of nature in woven into their everyday lives throughout towns and cities...

At Io, our work in cultural and historical landscapes has taught us to read landscapes, much like a historian might read archival documents. Understanding the language of the landscape allows us to write new narratives that go beyond ecological landscapes to speak to the core of what makes us human. We seek to weave a new narrative filled with emotion and memory – landscapes that create meaning. If we want people to give a damn about nature, they have to care about nature. They need to live and breathe and feel nature and natural places.

 

Speaking from my own personal experience. While I grew up in a pretty generic suburb, I was fortunate to spend many weekends and holidays exploring the rural and forested areas around my grandparents’ cabin in Idaho. My formative years were also punctuated with many camping trips and hiking excursions to beautiful scenic locations. These experiences formed a lot of my core memories, shaking both my personal identity and my relationship with the natural world. This is why I chose to become a landscape architect. At some level, I’m seeking to recreate or capture the essence of these memories through my work. I want everyone to be able to experience the feelings of discovery, joy, peace and ultimately presence that comes with walking an unfolding path, sitting in a quiet grove or absorbing the infinitesimal beauty of their own natural environments at all scales.

 

People need opportunities to connect with nature in all forms, the wild and scenic national and state parks and forests. But also their own little pieces of nature in woven into their everyday lives throughout towns and cities in the form of public parks, commercial landscapes and residential landscapes. Now more than ever, these places need to go beyond just being sustainable, or just pretty – these landscapes need to create meaningful experiences for people to interact with nature.

 

The solution to the climate crisis isn’t only about ecological or resilient design, it’s about creating meaningful connections to nature. Humans aren’t logical, therefore our solution to getting people to care about the environment shouldn’t be focused solely on ecological solutions, but rather creating places that foster deep, meaningful connections with place and nature. If people care about nature, they will be far more intrinsically motivated to protect it.

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