This blog is a fresh new start after many years of busy Parisian life that had exhausted me. It’s a space to observe and immerse yourself. A voluntary slowdown in order to explore alternative lifestyles and imagine how we can combine building and regenerating the environment.
1. Learn from the fields
Beyond their aesthetic and cultural aspect, landscapes hold a knowledge that is urgent to learn and feel again. The internet and books do not know it all. Our intelligence lives in a sensitive body. The simple act of being deeply connected to an environment – climate, plants, animals – is a very critical type of learning in itself.
Each ecosystem is a miracle of biological engineering. We are just starting to understand their amazing complexity. Evidenced by recent discoveries on communication networks between trees, fungi, etc. A healthy ecosystem naturally practices cooperation, sharing, mutual aid, diversity. A very popular list of values among recruiters and educators at the moment.
« Learning from landscapes » means learning by being in contact with landscapes, as well as learning from their processes. It is also a tribute to Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown’s work (pictured below), two American architects in the 1970s who wanted to learn form Las Vegas’ landscapes some lessons for the future…
From « too-much-is-never-enough » to Costa Rican jungle, the split is fully assumed.
2. Put design at the service of the living
Nature is the oldest and largest factory. Ecosystems know how to produce without destroying. They are part of an inherently sustainable industry. In contrast with the industry developed under the industrial revolution and driven crazy by the capitalist economy.
« If design is merely an inducement to consume, then we must reject design; if architecture is merely the codifying of the bourgeois models of ownership and society, then we must reject architecture; if architecture and town planning [are] merely the formalization of present unjust social divisions, then we must reject town planning and its cities […] until all design activities are aimed towards meeting primary needs. Until then, design must disappear. We can live without architecture. » – Adolfo Natalini, Superstudio, 1971
In the 1970s, Radical Italian architects from the group Superstudio insist that design’s role is to meet the primordial needs of humanity. They criticize how consumption society uses design to sell more goods. From industrial production, we have moved to an organized over-production and gigantic waste. And we’ve lost sight of the fact that design could – and should! – create environmental and human friendly artifacts.
Today, even indirectly, a large part of design contributes to the depletion of natural resources, the extermination of biodiversity and the contamination of water, air and organisms through chemicals and pollutants …
« Instead of doing less damage to the environment, it is necessary to learn how we can participate with the environment — using the health of ecological systems as a basis for design. » – Bill Reed, « Shifting from ‘sustainability’ to regeneration », 2007
Ecosystems possess an ancient knowledge about balance, cycles and synergies. Design needs to learn from it. The laws that govern the living can become design principles to produce sustainable artifacts. Among these laws: Nature makes no waste. Even better, it automatically recycles everything in a virtuous dynamic. A fruit will feed an animal or a human, then its waste will feed the earth to produce new fruits. Also: Ecosystems are naturally balanced. The variety of their species is their strength, their exchanges guarantee the survival of each, and cohabitation does not mean competition but cooperation.
3. Imagine post-capitalism
During my design studies, I was fascinated by foresight, I wanted to be one of those who will invent the future … After 7 years spent working non-stop behind a computer, I decided to to go to Costa Rica in search for concrete lessons. I wanted to discover effective and cheerful alternatives.
I worked for 6 months (outdoors and in the sun!) as a volunteer in various projects dealing with ecosystem regeneration. Each of those projects is a tangible proof that we can combine biodiversity preservation, human development and sustainable lifestyles. Production (of materials, food or energy) can become a lever for regeneration (of soils, natural habitats, human health…). Knowledge is here: permaculture, re-wilding, agro-ecology, co-living, synthetic biology, upcycling. We need to combine them in an innovative way to shape desirable futures.
Nature is not soluble in capitalism. Or as Bernard Stiegler puts it: the living things on Earth can not be continually subjected to calculation and profit.
Decreasing our consumption of material goods and aiming for a greater appreciation of life values is what Pierre Rabhi calls « the power of restraint » (« la sobriété heureuse »). Living together will be the cement of this new society project, together with elders and toddlers, as well as together with plants and animals. In order to do that, we are going to need to learn new skills and share our know-how.
Intercambiamos was born from this evidence. Located in Puerto Jimenez, this place invites us to exchange talents rather than money. It was founded by Allison, a former New York lawyer who decided to start over from scratch. Allison knows how to heal and listen, and soon how to make goat cheese! She is looking for people who can plant, paint and build to help grow her project:
« The goal is to eventually do skill shares and have a space where we can all practice concrete skills, so that we can be excited and confident about capitalism falling instead of being like “OH NO THIS IS TERRIBLE, ALL I KNOW HOW TO DO IS WRITE TWEETS ABOUT PRESS RELEASES THAT DESCRIBE SOMEONE TALKING SECOND HAND ABOUT AN ACTUAL THING THAT HAPPENED, WHAT AM I GONNA DO”. Instead it could be more like “I got this, I know how to bake bread / make dyes from plants / build furniture / pump water from a stream to a house.” You know? And also just to have people be around beauty and harmony, and remember that that’s the natural state of things. » – Allison
-The on-going list of projects I visit and document
-The article « Why we need regenerative cultures »
-The book « Rambouctious Garden, Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World », by Emma Marris, Bloomsbury, 2013
-The documentary “The Century of the Self” on the history of the engineering of mass desires and the incredible influence of Sigmund Freud’s nephew on the consumer society (produced by the BBC, watch for free on Youtube)