Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

Interviews - Week 1

During the first week of expert interviews I spoke with 13 individuals from scientists to park managers to designers and started getting an idea of some of the current challenges and varying points of view. Thank you all for your wonderful insights! There is so much more than what I can begin to share in blog format. For now, I'll provide some themes that have begun to surface.

Many of my interviewees discussed the importance of immersion and "just going out there". This is something that JB McKinnon discusses in "The Once and Future World" as well. Through immersion and focused attention on the natural environments that surround us, we start noticing things that we otherwise wouldn't. Why are the birds chirping in that rhythm? What does it mean when they stop chirping? Why isn't there any sea life on this beach? A related challenge that my interviewees mentioned, however, is the anxiety that often comes for people not used to sitting "without anything to do" for an extended period of time.

MushLume Lamp

MushLume Lamp

Another insight, one that I touched on in my last post, is the idea of "changing three degrees at a time." This is something that Danielle Trofe spoke with me about. In some cases, you have to bring people along with you and slowly shift over time. This is particularly true for aesthetic preferences in fashion and design. Danielle was specifically referring to her MushLume lamps that are made out of mycelium mushroom but are based on known and accepted forms of industrial design and use other more familiar materials like wood and metal.

There seemed to be a tension between some comments regarding rewilding as an antisocial practice. Some interviewees specifically were discomforted by the term. At the same time, other interviewees referred to it as community-driven and socially empowering. I believe this stems from the varying definitions of rewilding. There are some definitions that seem to be more digestible than others. 

A fourth insight was around the way in which grocery stores can act as a facade. Tom DeLuca shared his insights on the requirement of a feeling of crisis for the government to take action. And unfortunately, in terms of soil health and food systems, there is not a felt crisis in many areas. A significant amount of people have easy access to grocery stores with abundance of food and no visible indicator that there are increasing issues of shortages and degrading land.

Finally, I want to note the overall sense of hopelessness in many of my interviewees voices. It is starting to seem like people who care about these environmental causes are isolated. Without the sense of community, they feel they can only rely on a governmental/policy change and just keep doing what they're doing until other people start to join. There was little talk of proactive promotion of these movements and taking action to spread the word. While there is validity in the approach of being a visible example of the lifestyle you want others to live, that did not appear to be the only reason for the lack of activism.

To end on a slightly more uplifting note - look at this awesome mushroom planter I made at the Mycelium Workshop!

Jenna Witzleben