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 2

I am starting to get very back logged and outdated on my blog posts. But nonetheless, here is a summary of the findings from my second week of interviews back in mid October. 

At this point in my process, I had interviewed 31 individuals from a variety of backgrounds including ancestral skills, several fields of science, park management, educators, and designers. And after this week things started to get even more interesting!

First of all, I finally was made aware of the true importance of agriculture in my study. Agriculture can sometimes feel like an over-discussed subject - "yeah yeah organic farming, we know." Or at least this was my point of view until I spoke with Jerry Glover. He opened my eyes to the fact that organic farming actually isn't the final solution. It's a more nuanced debate than that. While we aim for increased biodiversity, organic farming isn't usually that much better, maybe it have 5 different species instead of 2. Our deep-seated adoration for the aesthetic of farming obscures our ability to think of solutions that move away from traditional farm-based agriculture. Dr. Glover proposed industrial algae as one alternate food source in order to free up farmland to be turned back to the wild. 

Many of my interviewees also discussed permaculture. And it was fascinating to hear Peter Michael Bauer's perspectives on foraging. While it is often an easy assumption or association that wild food = foraged food, foraging is also not necessarily the answer. Peter described to me the issues that arise when the acts of many individual foragers add up to destroy these wild food sources. Plus, it is a food source type that lacks reciprocity and tending of the land. 

To make things even more complex, overpopulation limits our ability for rewilding our food systems and places the priority on yield instead of ecosystem and soil health. Clearly food production systems will need to play an important role in this thesis.

Another common theme in my interviews was community. Rewilding efforts must be specific to the region and have community buy-in in order to function. This is different from the idea that many people have of rewilding as individual abandonment of society. 

These interviews inspired me to create a new thesis map of the different scales that I am operating in and some of the key "sub-topics" of interest. 

Once again, I have to heavily simplify and generalize my insights and learnings from my interviews- there is a lot more that I haven't touched on here. Thank you so much to my wonderful interviewees for all that you have provided to me!

Jenna Witzleben