Tackling Big Ideas With Land Art / by Lora Martens

One of the main requests that Recology wanted from the GIR project was to to showcase drought tolerant plants. California is in the middle of a historic drought, and many homeowners are voluntarily, or required, to plant drought tolerant plants in their yards. Lawn is being replaced in city parks in San Francisco with no mow drought tolerant grasses. These landscapes, signify a permanent shift in the way potable water is used in our cities; from now on water use will always be examined when selecting plants. I am happy to be a part of educating the public to help them use less water outdoors, this is a very positive outcome of the drought. 

It didn't feel like enough for me. I've always been interested in the big picture of things. The systems behind the systems. In my work as a landscape architect, I've been exploring the ways in which to show and articulate the ways the built landscape is so much larger and powerful than plant selection and retaining wall footings. The landscape is everything, its the beginning and the end and everything in between. The drought is a symptom, not the main issue. The main issue is climate change, caused by human pollution and the framework of our entire society, which consumes with abandon. 

As I stared at the 20'x20' plot I selected I felt like this space was too small to say anything meaningful about climate change. Academics write books about climate change, Al Gore makes feature length documentaries about climate change. In theory, I believe that this problem won't be solved until everyone does something, no matter how small, within the context of our own lives. We can't wait for the people in power to make the right decisions for us, because it's been 20 years of talk and no action on that front. But I was surprised how paralyzed I felt getting started, how could one little art project ever possibly have anything meaningful to say in the context of such a huge complicated issue?

So I did what I do when I don't understand something. I got out my journal and got on the internet to see where it would lead me.