DesignNecessary 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 warning us of a warming planet, our collective response has been relatively too little, too late. Now we’re witnessing many of the most dire predictions becoming a reality.


One reason we’re at this point is a lack of political will to create meaningful solutions on a large scale. There remains a disconnect between the general public and the people 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 behind environmental issues. It’s not enough to scare them with the plethora of potential calamities caused by the degradation of natural ecosystems. We need to appeal to our human emotions.


Fortunately, landscape architects are on the forefront of creating resilient places. We design with nature to combat the ill effects of climate change. We understand that restoring ecosystems will clean the air and water, and put carbon back into the soil. Beyond that, landscape architects also restore the human relationship with nature. I feel like that’s the part that’s getting lost in the conversation. Framing human interaction with nature and place should be central to our work. 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 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 about what makes us human. 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.



While I grew up in a pretty generic suburb, my formative years were punctuated with camping trips and hiking excursions to beautiful scenic locations. I also spent many weekends and holidays exploring the rural
and forested areas around my grandparents’ cabin in Idaho. These experiences formed a lot of my core memories, shaping both my personal identity and my relationship with nature. 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 discovery, joy, and peace from walking an unfolding path, sitting in a quiet grove, or absorbing the infinitesimal beauty of their own natural environments.



People need opportunities to connect with nature in all forms. Not everyone has the chance to visit the wild and scenic national and state parks and forests. Everyone needs their own little pieces of nature woven into their everyday lives. We can introduce these connections to nature in cities through public parks, commercial and residential landscapes. Beyond just being sustainable or pretty, these landscapes need to provide more interactions with nature.



The solution to the climate crisis isn’t only about ecological or resilient design. It’s also about creating meaningful connections to nature. Getting people to care about the environment shouldn’t be solely about ecological solutions. If people interact with care about nature, they will be far more intrinsically motivated to protect it.

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