Mindo Lago is a project of ecological restoration, an event space, and a hotel in Mindo, Ecuador, a town two hours northwest of Quito. Mindo Lago began as a project to recover native species of amphibians since they are considered to be nature´s thermometer. They are indicator species because their presence is a sign of ecological health due to their sensitivity to climate change and pollution. Twelve years ago, the land stewards built ponds, planted native water and land plants, and ensured that the lands was free from toxic chemicals and protected against human encroachment. This work has resulted in a haven for frogs, toads, howler monkeys, insects, birds and the plants and ponds that make them feel at home.. The response is so overwhelmingly beautiful and healthy, that people show up for nightly "Frog Concerts" whereby the frogs and toads will promptly begin their songs at 6:30pm. The songs vary depending on species, season, and weather, but what is obvious is that the resident amphibians are numerous. Since the project began 40 species of native amphibians call Mindo Lago home. At the Frog concert guests are served a small glass of wine, are given a introduction to the mission and work of the organization to restore and protect amphibians, and then go an a tour to see frogs, toads, spiders, birds, and biolumenesent micro bacteria.
The work and vision of Mindo Lago shows that nature can heal herself with proper stewardship, and native plants, water, and respectful toxic free care. Mindo Lago is a perfect example of design for restoration and the incredible aliveness and health that arrives as a result. To support the protect the caretakers of the land began to slowly create a hotel surronding the lake for people to learn, stay, and enjoy the truly revitalizing places in Ecuador. How do we know that? The diversity of creatures, especially the ecologically sensitive amphibians show up to stay and show up to sing. For more information check out: http://mindolago.com.ec/en/.
Creativity isn't really about being original, it is about unique combinations. As a permaculture student and lover of environmental art, the connection of bringing together restoration to the land base in an artful way occurred to me. I recognized the power of art as the educator and I felt that if there was land, water, or air that had thoughtfully been remediated than how could that important message be shared. The message to be shared is the one of human as giving back, not just taking, the message of human as steward dedicated to an ecological restorative practice with the land, water, and air. Art seemed to be the best way to share this ethos, that this experience and way of being in the world could be possible.
Imagine a watershed restoration project that might be close to a trail. Imagine that integrated with the erosion control earthworks is a design that is a recognizable feature that attracts the attention of those passing by. This is an opportunity for those paying attention to briefly read that there is restoration of this site in progress and that the design they see integrated will be habitat, help with erosion, and provide shade for the fish in the river. The multiple levels of functionality going on in this scenario includes, actual land based restoration techniques (the science), artful use of natural materials arranged for functionality and appreciation (the art), educational enrichment for the passersby (the message), and as a site containing art this location could receive more protection in the future. Additionally, the long-term development or the evolving nature of this artwork could attract long-term interest from the public, further increasing the protection of the land. As long as the humans stay off the healing land that is. :)
I recognize that the conditions would need to be right in terms of the land base needs and access by the public for this idea to have a big impact. I believe artists residencies could be established that connects scientists, environmental artists, and landowners to provide this experience. A few artists have been working in this way. This is one of the best examples I've come across recently where artist Guy Riefler uses iron from a toxic river to make pigments and art to sell to fund the river clean up. Mel Chin's Revival Field is another one. I'm sure there are more out there and I'm looking forward to facilitating projects or being an advocate for this concept throughout my life's work. Please reach out if you are interested too.
The restorative environmental art movement is a vision that is associated with a larger vision of a restorative economy. This is an economy based on stewardship, sharing, and better design rather than endless extraction. My hope is that beautiful seeds of awareness are planted that helps inspire humanity to evolve back to participating with the earth like a conscious adult.
Design for Decomposition
Prevention is better than prescriptions. Design for Decomposition is a preventative measure for the challenges that reusing materials can bring. It's also a standard I would like to develop and promote maybe even into a certification program. The idea is to highlight product designers and producers who choose materials that can be composted or will easily decompose after the use of the product. This was the idea behind compostable corn based plastics and the "not a new" concept of using natural fibers and not synthetics. This not only keeps the energy used to produce this material more ecological (using the sun), but also this supports fiber farmers and ranchers, not the petroleum industries.
The Design for Decomposition concept can really shine in the single use disposable arena, such as coffee cups, to-go packages, forks and knives, water bottles. Companies that are using bamboo or wood or even recycled cardboard are thinking much further a head to the longevity of their sourcing and the waste their product creates. Ideally, a company that is adhering to the Design for Decomposition standards could close the loop on their business by having their growers connect with composting industries to supply any compost they might need to grow bamboo, trees, grasses or other fibers such as industrial hemp.
Cradle to Cradle covers the idea of designing for decomposition as well in the systematic design program they have. I'm promoting the idea of this standard for companies that might need that extra push to think about using naturally degrading materials, things that will decompose quickly, and to consider making with purity in their products. A wool sweater for example, perhaps mixing it with a synthetic fabric will help keep it from shrinking, but when it's thrown in the landfill it will take decades to decompose. In contrast, a sweater that you have to learn to care for made of 100% wool will likely be a higher quality product and one to develop a caring relationship for, it could last longer and decompose faster or be more easily reused as insulation for example.
This is a back to the future concept. Something simple we have lost touch with. Our ancestors didn't leave us mountains of trash to deal with. Why was that?
Here is a picture from Buddha jeans a sustainable clothing lifestyle company that is prioritizing using biodegradable synthetic fibers. It's interesting to know really how fast do these fibers degrade and in what conditions. I think this new fiber technology is interesting but I'd rather wear natural fibers like silk, wool, linen and hemp.