Month: March 2013

The Politics of Play: Seeking Adventure in a Risk-Averse Society

I referred briefly to the essay titled The Politics of Play: Seeking adventure in a risk-averse society in last week’s exploration of The Curious Garden, but I think it merits some attention of its own. In the piece, Jay Griffith argues that unstructured and free play (something that is increasing rare nowadays) is vital for helping children grow up into mature, sustainable, and resilient individuals capable of exercising sound judgement. I would like to share a couple of choice quotes:

Sunflower In a Food Garden

Food is the Problem and the Solution: TED Talk by Ron Finley

I really like TED talks. I not only enjoy being exposed to ideas worth spreading, but I am also rejuvenated by seeing the passion people have in their work. But it takes a lot of skill to do TED talks  well. It doesn’t matter how exciting the ideas themselves are: One has to convey them in a way that captures the imagination of the audience. The story is not enough; one needs to also be a good storyteller. Keeping with last week’s theme of urban renewal and gardening, I wanted to share a recent favourite TED talk of mine. It’s by Ron Finley, a guerilla gardener who is working to bring about a more hopeful, healthy and sustainable future for South Central LA: Receiving a standing ovation, Finley’s passion for and belief in food gardening as a force for societal transformation is evident and infectious.  Like other great TED Talks, his presentation worked for me because he is simply a fantastic storyteller with an inspirational tale to tell. His eleven minute talk has great energy, never drags, and is full …

A Boy and His Plants: The Curious Garden

There’s an art to writing for kids. Good children’s books aren’t simply dumbed down stories, written with smaller words and fitted with happy sappy endings. In reality, kids are quite discerning: Their faculties haven’t yet been dulled by the insecurities and neuroses accumulated during the process of growing up. They like what they like and are completely honest about it. It’s true that they happily consume works filled with tired clichés and moralistic messages, but lacking cynicism and regard for convention, they generally emerge none the worse for wear. The stories that stay with kids are ones that feel authentic and true, even if they can’t articulate why. These are stories that speak through the language of wonder, a native tongue we are all born knowing but can easily be forgotten through neglect and disuse. I think The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a great children’s book. Inspired by the revitalization of the Highline railway on the west side of Manhattan, Brown fuses charming visuals with a narrative that is full of discovery and hope. …

Garbage Landscapes, by Yao Lu

Perhaps more of these kinds of messages, delivered through mediums that resonate deep within the Chinese psyche like Shan Shui paintings, can help broaden the debate, spark lasting awareness, and affect change on the complex issues behind most environmental problems. This is what I wrote in the Shan Shui: Environmental Art Ekostory a few weeks back. Last night, I stumbled upon the intriguing work of artist Yao Lu, titled Yao Lu’s Landscape, at barbourdesign.wordpress.com:

Emma Marris Rambunctious Garden

Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World

Several years ago, I spent a month volunteering at Koke’e State Park on Kauai, Hawaii. I was there to enlist in the “war against invasives”, learning to identify and remove plants that threatening to overtake Garden Isle’s native ecosystems. Armed with a machete, a foldup saw, and two squirt bottles of herbicide, a group of us proceeded to take out the primary offenders – fields of kahili ginger (Hedychium gardnerianum), groves of strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum), and towering Australian tree ferns (Cyathea cooperi). The work itself was satisfying, but in the back of my mind there grew a sad realization that our collectives efforts made little difference in the big picture. Vast areas were already covered with dense stands of invasives and were beyond salvaging. We worked triage, investing our energies on areas where gingers and guavas had not yet gained a significant foothold. But I was forced to accept that the ohia lehua and koa dominated forests we worked so hard to protect will eventually be relegated to existence in small and intensely managed …

Distance, Perspective, Awe: The Overview Effect

I recently came across this short film created by a group called the Planetary Collective and was immediately captivated by what astronauts, philosophers, and authors described as the “Overview Effect”: A full piece exploring the ideas and themes of the film will be up on Ekostories in a few weeks. I wanted to share this now because the group is doing a Kickstarter for a full-length feature titled Continuum that is due in a week or so, and I figured they could use some exposure.  If Overview is any indication of quality, Continuum is going to be one fascinating and thought-provoking documentary. You can learn more about the project at The Planetary Collective Presents: Continuum.

Escapades in Ecology: Simpsons’ Bart the Mother

“Hi, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such nature films as “Earwigs, Ew!”, and “Man Versus Nature: The Road to Victory.” The Simpsons started life as a quirky satirical parody of the typical American middle-class family three decades ago and has since become a cultural touchstone for entire generations of viewers. There’s not much the longest running sitcom in US television story hasn’t spoofed and parodied, and that includes humanity’s relationship with nature. Season ten’s Bart the Mother is not the only environmentally themed episode of the series, but it is my personal favourite. As the last episode voiced by the legendary Phil Hartman (RIP), Bart the Mother is not only an intriguing and hilarious story about the consequences of introduced species, but also explores the mentality with which we engage with the world around us.