You know when you have an idea, and you want to hold it close, but then you realize that it would need so much community and financial support to make happen that withholding it until you have the resources to pull it off is just ridiculous. This is an idea like, that and one that I want to be a part of designing and creating before I die.
The Vision: A collective purchase of land that is sectioned off to be a wilderness preservation site, a natural/green burial ground, a hospice center for people so they do not have to die on opiates in hospitals. It would also be an outdoor sculpture garden with cabins for visitors.
This vision is about giving back, regeneration, and creating final experiences for people so they don't have to die and have their bodies processed in a way that is not in line with their values. I believe the collective purchasing model or a foundation purchase would help make this possible, and repeatable in various areas of the world.
Wilderness Burial Grounds are not new concepts, but they are regaining popularity for ecological, psychological, and spiritual reasons. I'm connected to the White Eagle wilderness burial grounds and I recently heard about Herland as well. These locations are inspiring and examples of models that work and are close examples of this vision. It's so important that we investigate why our current death practices are the way they are and redesign them to be healthier for heart, the planet, and families. Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul by Stephen Jenkinson is a gem of a book about death in general including a historical look into some cultural elements that are missing for the human communities for the first time in thousands of years. Personally, I feel that after all of the earth's resources that it takes to sustain my life, the least I can do is give my body back to the earth so it may feed new life. I'd prefer to do this without being pumped full of preservatives and without eleborate casings to keep me from quickly decomposing. Decomposing naturally and non toxically is accepting that we die, which is something our culture is trying to deny on many levels with current death practices.
Wilderness Burial Grounds are also places where my remaining loved ones can find where my bones are, and realize that they are connected to a place, a spirit, an existence because their ancestors are. I do not want to be connected with in a linear, square, field of ego stones and fake flowers, and I know that others feel the same way. As more family and friends and individuals start facing and honoring death as a part of life, I foresee the rise of natural/green burial grounds and country hospice centers.
Where do you want to die?
Another component of this vision is a hospice center that allows people to pass away in an environment they would prefer rather than in hospitals and urban care centers. Maybe I wouldn't care then, but now I know I would like to die leaning against an oak tree or in one of my canvas tents with sunshine and dappled leaves shining through the creamy walls.
Creating intentional hospice centers for final experiences allows the dying to experience their death and not be drugged out of it. I imagine hospice centers with clear declarations: their intentions are not to sedate the dying with drugs and capitalize financially on this process. I believe people want this, even if they don't value their death experience at this moment.
As I understand more about death and dying, I realize that so much of it is about the family and the grief process. I would like to see an outdoor art installation area that serves as a completive space for the dying and their families. I see that space as a way to connect with the unconscious using art and symbol to help people see a broader perspective in their grief and suffering. I see the installations as thematically intentional and designed with interactive spaces, such as art forms that allow someone to mediate or lay down and look at the stars. Ideally, I would love some of this art to have ecologically regenerative elements, such as art that encourages plant growth, or deals with the themes of decomposition in a beautiful way. That is what this is about, creating soulful beauty around our decomposition and regeneration on this stunning earth.
Here is some outdoor sculpture garden inspiration: http://www.sculptureinthewild.com/home.html
If you are interested in connecting about this idea, please reach out. This dream requires a community to put into action. Chelsea@ecocreativestrategies.com
Since the election results in the United States I have had to step away from the downward spiral about what's going to happen and focus on the present moment. I believe that whatever situations in the world that have allowed this to be must be balanced by people that support the vulnerable and voiceless. So what are we going to do to rescue ourselves and our communities, our choices and our future as we see our rights, access to resources, and voices disregarded? Each person may have an area of interest that they feel most passionate about, perhaps its women's rights, animal rights, non-GMO foods, water rights, peace, and justice. Whatever it is the world needs you to do something or get involved more deeply. For me, I've always been passionate about treating the earth and the life-sustaining gifts on her with respect and care. I believe strongly that this work is in the imaginations, hands, and the voting dollars of all people. I will venture to guess that the new administration is not likely to support sustainability with policies for environmental protection, renewable energy, waste reduction, water rights, or circular economy efforts. I truly hope I am pleasantly surprised. However, the motivation is there for the rest of us to be involved.
This way of being, of valuing sustainability continues to be pushed forward by those that see the long term benefits of caring for our planet over the short term financial gain for the few. We all must continue to choose responsibly, especially with our financial investments, and create conditions, products, services, experiences, and relationships that support the planet and each other. By "we" I truly mean everyone in any context can do something to give back, protect, not waste, clean, prevent, care for personal health and the planet in their homes, work, investing strategies, and with their donations. If you don't think you can do anything drop a line and we will figure something out.
As we have seen the consciousness of the people protecting water is under attack, but the institutions we have believed were working in our favor, are not. The biggest lesson we must accept is that we have been living under illusions that we are safe, living in healthy places, are treated with respect and that someone else in a higher position will fix the problems. We have seen that global leaders are not doing the right thing for human and environmental rights and health. The hierarchical model isn't working and relying on some "powerful" person to fix things is naive. People must be shaken out of their comfort zones to see what must be changed, and so the waking up is happening. We have another opportunity to be creators, innovators, people that care to be the change, to create micro-climates if you will, that inspire and spread and start healing the destruction.
If you were hesitant to jump in and be involved, there is no time to wait. The energy is ripe for facing your illusions and join the international communities of people that work beyond politics to create a healthy world for all living things. We will be like the pinecone that needs a forest fire to open and spread vibrant seeds.
We are not designing the world to deal with the mental illness we are creating in it.
The french air traffic controllers went on strike (surprise, surprise) and it caused my plane to be delayed that then caused me to miss two flights. I was trying to get to Portland, OR from Lisbon Portugal within 24 hours. This strike would extend my travels home from 20 hours to 3 days, 1500 extra dollars, and a few gray hairs I didn’t have before.
This was one of the most exhausting and stressful situations I have been involved in for many years. This experience plus my body's state at the time allowed me to experience the world sleep deprived, sick, hungry, fatigued, and frankly really pissed off because I had mentally prepared myself to be home and I wasn’t and I had to pivot immediately to re-coordinate everything in a compromised mental state. I was also navigating through Portuguese and English systems that were not familiar to me. Fortunately, the language barrier was minimized although I didn’t always understand what people were saying even in English and I’m sure they didn’t understand my United Statesian English either. (I see how whiny this is, but I'm not a trained soldier. If it gets too whiny jump down to the last few paragraphs).
In the situations of being stuck on airplanes, trying to navigate airports, calling, emailing and dealing with airplane companies with inadequate or expensive wifi, on low batteries, and check in desks that redirected me to other desks all while scrambling to find lodging just like the sea of people also trying to recalibrate. I was struck by how all these systems were not designed for users traumatized by the very system they were using or trying to navigate.
Interestingly, the French might argue the same thing which is why they went on strike. What I noticed, yet again, is that everything is connected so the poor treatment of one thing gives what it gets and it cascades to everything else, just like polluted water.
I was able to change plans quickly because I had a little battery left on my computer and a kind Portuguese flight attendant created a hot spot for me using his personal phone. I immediately asked my family to help me knowing I didn’t have much time left or a decent way to connect to the airline offices via email or cell phone. I did manage to call via Skype and switch tickets on my international flight. At the last moment, everything changed yet again and the pilot announced that they were able to leave a little bit earlier now. WHAT?! This meant that I may have been able to make my original flight. Oh, DANG!
When the plane finally landed in London, I tried to run to the other concourse, go through customs and security, again, and make the gate. I had a helpful pilot even run with my part of the way so I didn’t have to navigate signage. I wouldn’t have been able to find my way or know that I had to get to the other concourse without him. On top of all of this, I had taken an antihistamine a few hours before because I have been suffering from a rash and a cold. So I ran dry mouthed, itchy, late, lost, and adrenaline pumped to try to catch a plane. (This is important because many, many people are moving through the world on pharmaceuticals, many of them take them to deal with depression, pain, and hyperactivity for example.) The navigation and the layout, the signage, everything at that moment was confusing, poorly signed, there was no maps, keys or guides. The lines, rules, processes all seemed poorly organized for the various time-tables people were on. Why didn’t they have rush lines? Why wasn’t their signs that were at eye level about where you were, and which way you needed to go for help or information? Where was the line on the floor for me to follow to the other con concourse? Why did the world make the assumption that everyone had wifi or cell phones to help them navigate systems now? Why were the colors of the signs the same when the functions of them were different (way-finding vs. shopping)? How would I navigate if I was really old or young, not able-bodied, etc?
It’s not a new concept that all these desperate companies and designers take their little slice and add it to a system like an airport. (This is the segmentation and linear thinking we are trying to change to collaborative and systems thinking.) But for the user having to experience each layer in a system and in an experience, especially in a mindset altered by the experience, the process is disjointed, hellacious, confusing, and crazy making.
The most pathetic part of was having to visually and mentally decipher and filter the advertisements versus the way- finding. The airports were cages of consumption with jacked up prices and I was stuck with the options. What was really driving the design of this system then? Consumption, shopping, spending money, could this be a root cause of poor design?
I was really grateful for this experience because I gained, even more, empathy, awareness of access and economic barriers, mobility consciousness, and the need for designing systems to address the trauma that the systems we navigate create. Let's not design a system that creates or amplifies a traumatic outcome. If the users, (especially the Earth as a user) is put in a traumatized state after the use of the designed system, service, or product some things needs to be addressed differently than how it was created and pronto.
Let's take a close look at the top mental illnesses in the modern world and create places, systems, and experiences, that provide the antidote to what it is in the modern world that creates these illnesses. This is how design, service design, and space creation can be healing. This might just be what keeps loyal customers willing to support your support of them. We can and should start everywhere especially in our public spaces, where the need for universal or "public-friendly" design is the greatest. Cities, urban planners, developers, corporations, administrations, bureaucracies, can check in deeper with what they are really creating - stress and cumulative mental illness maybe? We can design for life, not just money.