The innate draw to natural landscapes is a universal part of the human experience. Humanity has always been a part of nature as we evolved from primates and continued to be hunter gatherers, and then farmers, fishers, foresters and herders. We only recently made the transition from being mostly rural to mostly urban, as over half of people on Earth became city as opposed to rural village dwellers around 2014. Still, wherever we go, we bring landscapes with us: much effort is invested by urban planners into including green space in cities. Public health statistics reveal that bringing nature to cities in the form of parks and open spaces - and even small areas like gardens - helps us live a higher quality of life. Landscapes are made up of wildlife, plant communities, and watersheds, as well as people and the built environment, and these components are scaled down and brought into the landscaping (as in, gardening) setting. I'm excited to be helping spread the word about an awesome landscape company, Revolution Landscape, that is helping people live healthier, happier lives through landscaping in the San Diego area.
Mission Trails Regional Park is a landscape that provides meaningful experiences in nature for thousands of residents of the San Diego area, as well as visitors to our region. Its chaparral and coastal sage scrub plant communities are home to plants that are often featured in Revolution Landscapes.
Though ideas about natural landscapes vary from culture to culture, our Western ideas about them have been shaped by millennia of our experience as farmers, design in the built environment, writing and photography of nature and cultures close to it, and outdoor activities and travel. In our present day, many wellness disciplines such as horticultural and wilderness therapy have emerged as professionals have researched the effects of nature on peoples’ physiological and psychological wellbeing, showing that the connection between nature and health go beyond just conjecture.
Though not working directly in gardening himself, wilderness therapy guide Steven Harper is based on the Central Coast of California has decades of wisdom guiding others towards more meaningful lives using both natural and built landscapes. The nexus of these two, according to Harper? Gardens.
Revolution Landscapes are places of personal renewal, nature stewardship, and investment in our clients’ lives and properties.
In an effort to to extend the benefits of living closer to nature beyond the experiential treks he guides, Harper has come to recommend gardening “to workshop participants who seek ways of staying connected outside of the wilderness environment. When practiced in a sustainable way, gardening and farming are activities in which people and wild nature intermesh and begin to coevolve. Gardening yields deep insights into how we can physically, mentally, and spiritually find creative balance between wild nature and human nature. Gardening immerses us in a basic natural cycle that directly sustains our life. We get our hands dirty and our bodies sweaty. Gardening can be the physical embodiment of symbiosis and coevolution, the ‘ground’ in which we practice what we have learned in wilderness. We give to the Earth as well as receiving.”
Our appreciation of local and global natural areas - both the “green space” of our local parks and preserves, to the “blue space” of our beaches and breathtaking coastline - inspire us to bring nature to your home through our landscape design and installation.
Landscaping your yard can connect you to where you live and improve your life in numerous ways. Whether gardening ourselves, or creating means of remaining in closer contact with the beauty and goodness of nature by having our yard landscaped using thoughtful and well-informed design, the benefits are many for our mind, body and spirit. Spending time with landscapes - from the many square miles of watersheds to a few hundred square feet on our own property - can bring us the personal renewal that all of our lives need.
If you're interested in learning more about how Revolution Landscape can bring goodness to your life through their landscapes, please reach be in touch via my contact form.
The Chagga homegarden agroforestry systems of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
One of my life's deepest joys has been the opportunity to visit with farmers around the world, learning about their farming systems and ways of life. Supporting the preservation of their traditional knowledge through speaking, visual media, and writing are ways I have worked to relay these important practices to students and readers back home as I have learned from direct experience and directly from farmers as well as expert researchers. These are ways I provide Educational For Sustainable Development to groups pursuing more resilient ways of life in a variety of contexts.
With agroforestry expert Dr. P.K. Ramachandran Nair of Kerala, India and the University of Florida
Agriculture has deeply affected the health of our planet. While it meets basic needs of humanity with the provision of food and materials, it also causes massive ecological damage while not supporting the thousands of years of cultural heritage it represents, from its beginnings in gathering and on the how it is classified today, including farming, fisheries, forestry and livestock. The most diverse form of agriculture recognized today is called "agroforestry", which can be explained as "a system in which woody perennials, such as trees, shrubs, and bamboo, are planted alongside agricultural crops and animals." Basically, it is farming in a way that closely mimics nature's forests with their biodiversity, beauty and productivity.
A number of great organizations in the San Diego area are working on how to bring complex ideas like agroforestry - ones that connect food systems and traditional and modern farming practices - to people in a way that they can learn and participate themselves. The Leichtag Foundation's Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas is one of these places, and it was an honor to contribute my writing on agroforestry in a global context to their blog a while back. I welcome you to have read, and let me know what questions you may have! If you have any interest in learning more about agroforestry, or even having a "food forest"-inspired garden at your home, let's talk!
Welcome back, readers. This blog will be a place to explain in greater detail not only the ideas behind my website and business, Colin H. Richard Sustainability Services, but also share what likeminded friends are doing through their initiatives, as well. Though there is variety in the services I and these kindred spirits offer, I hope you will see that the forms of education, storytelling and design are complementary and serve not only one another, but my clients and collaborators, and world as a whole.
As several concepts for this blog have been reflected on over the years, one theme has risen to the top: connection. Connection of people to each other and the places they tend to, rich in ecological and cultural history, both those long spoken, sung and written down, and those now being created. This blog will be a platform for sharing my writing, both original compositions for this blog specifically, as well as those that I am privileged to share on others’ platforms.
Lobster fisherman transferring his catch on Caye Caulker, Belize
It will also feature the stories of people and projects I am inspired by, and it will continue to be an honor to be surrounded by a community of such meaningful people and work.
There has been a relatively recent move by Western science away from addressing landscapes (and seascapes) by their applied measurements as created by humans – being zipcodes, coordinates of latitude and longitude, and other such units. The updated view, more aligned with timeless traditional ecological knowledge held by indigenous peoples, views natural settings more by their natural (some would say Created) forms, such as watersheds has been a deep shift.
Ahupua’a Images courtesy of Limuhali Garden and Preserve (left), and Kamehameha Schools (right)
To the non-native Western eye, the watershed – an area of land that functions like a funnel to all the surface water such as rivers that flow over it, guiding it to one collecting place such as a lake or ocean – can be an enlightening concept. To traditional people such as the Kānaka Maoli/Native Hawai’ians, the watershed (called ahupua’a) has remained the most logical and obvious way to steward the land, which itself stewards the most valuable and sacred of resources: fresh, clean water. To have generous access to fresh water (wai) was equitable to having great wealth (wai wai).
Traditional rice farmer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
A friend of mine who works as a facilitator for all kinds of groups (public health, wildlife trafficking prevention, all kinds of advocacy that affects the lives of villagers, etc.) speaks of “changing the ‘how’ of what we do” as critical to building resilience in our personal and professional lives. This “working smarter, not harder” can make space for us to continue to innovate and not get rutted, stuck, overwhelmed and exhausted. One of my favorite books speaks to how what people do stems from their inner landscape, and how this “cultivation of people” and their hearts and minds is so critical. The intangible framing of our past, present and future story - first, before and alongside anything tangible in our lives - shapes how we will establish, tend to and improve as the landscape of our lives.
Wa’a Na Hiku (Big Dipper Canoe) on its maiden voyages off Pelekane Bay, Island of Hawai’i.
To those who seek a path, one will appear in the most seemingly impossible of places and oriented us to a way forward; often, this isn't a conventional, obvious route. Instead, it is another way, often not apparent to what would be called popular culture's "way". Indigenous peoples' ways of knowing of their land and sea yielded vast traditional knowledge, including precise star-based navigation that used heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon and stars to guide them to their destination. This star knowledge would mark “sea paths”, or routes by which oceanic peoples could travel across an otherwise unmarked expanse, reliably and repeatedly across millions of square miles of open sea from one island society to another. The remarkable cultural renaissance represented by the Hokule'a and Polynesian Voyaging Society has not only been significant for the Polynesian peoples, but suggestive of how all people might regain a sense of meaning that transcends our cultural and personal distinct hardships.
Our lives and times may often seem just this enigmatic and vexing amongst modernity’s seascape of constant stress, shocks and change. Amidst challenging seas, we have an opportunity to serve each other as wayfinding resources along our journeys, serving to guide the way forward as winds, currents, waves, and seabirds do to traditional seafarers. Many things work together to help us arrive where they we know we need to be.
So thank you again for rejoining my journey here. Or should I say “our journey”, as neither I nor any of us go alone. Instead, we are invited to go with a community of traveling wayfinders who seek not only a beautiful destination of a more sustainable world and better life for all, but wise paths to lead them and others there.