This blog post is a rewrite of an older post from late last year, why? because I realised that the ideas within in it have grown and grown in my mind ever since. It is also an illustration of how meaning making occurs over time, it is experiential learning in action. So hear goes…..
Have you ever had that experience of bumping into somebody repeatedly to the point where you think… ” I’m supposed to know this person!? Or have you ever had that similar experience where someone tells you something and you think…” I know absolutely nothing about that but why does it keep coming up?” Then a couple of days, maybe a couple of weeks., years go by and it comes up again and again…….Well, this is a story of that experience.
‘Pam’, mentioned some time ago, maybe a year, maybe more that she was interested in the interface at which gardens meet the native vegetation or bush areas. What happens in that space? how do they meet? how are they managed? I had never thought about it but it was an intriguing question.
Some time later I was at a clay workshop and the facilitator spoke about her ‘totem poles’ as being resting places for small insects in the garden, a place that is an interface between nature and humans. A small light flickered…interface..hmm… there is that word again.
Since then the idea of the human and nature interface keeps coming up. Whether by accident or subconscious design it is appearing in my photographs, clay and art.
What I choose to see is the way that the ‘man made’ component is serving the natural object by highlighting its beauty and revealing it as the special thing it is. If only this was the case in every human-nature interaction!
It is this thought that has taken on a new depth for me in the last years. Why do human beings treat nature with contempt? Why is their a void of empathy at the interface between humans and nature ? Why is there an interface at all, aren’t we part of the natural world? These are the sorts of questions that Ecopsychology seeks to answer but I discovered more recently that there are other lenses through which to explore this human- nature interface.
Recently I presented at the Australian Bush Adventure Therapy Conference, I listened to a key note by Dr Stuart Hill, a Social Ecologist. This man has a fascinating background; he was an ecologist in the first instance, who studied “bat shit” and its whole associated ecology in a cave in some far flung country. He then recognised that human social systems function in similar ways to ecological systems and thus to solve complex problems in our personal lives and in our broader society we can look to ecological systems for answers. He describes this with the analogy of soil, hidden under the surface of gardens and roads…
“Too often it is ‘the bits that we don’t see’, and are unaware of, that enable most systems to function. Yet society tends to focus just on the most attractive visible bits, neglects the rest, and is frequently surprised by the increasingly common expressions of system breakdown. This may be recognized at every level, from the individual to the biosphere, and from the local to the global. Examples of soil within terrestrial ecosystems and the subconscious within the human mind, and the complex interrelationships between them, are used here to illustrate this.” (Stuart Hill – Underground Ecosystems and the Subconscious: Their Neglect and Potential to Save Us)
Stuart Hill is not the first person to look at personal and social transformation through this lens. There are many practitioners and researchers under the name of Social Ecology, Human Ecology, Ecopsychology, Systems Theorists and others; all who are looking at the dynamics that occur in the interface between society, environment and culture as a means to find ways to reach sustainability.
So, there it is again – interface – Do ideas find us or do we find them ? Perhaps this is a discussion for another day, in the mean time here is an activity for further thought: make some paper frames of different sizes by taking several pieces of paper and cut out a square of a different sizes in each piece. Then go outside and place them over the points at which the man made world and natural world meet (like in my art work picture above). Look into the squares what do you see in these interfaces? how is it structured? how are things positioned ? are all human – nature interfaces the same? which ones are representative of your values? which ones are representative of society as a whole? how could they be more desirable? how does this change happen?