Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Pokemon GO gets us outside, but then what?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
Is there something wrong with this picture? (Screenshot of Pokemon GO video)

Is there something wrong with this picture? (Screenshot of Pokemon GO video)

I’m trying hard not to be an old fuddy-duddy, so please help me out. I want to hear from you about Pokemon GO (and other technology that gets people outdoors, but mostly PG). It’s only been around since Thursday, but the sensation seems to be sweeping the nation (or the world?), perhaps at a time when we could all use some positive distraction. It is summer, after all… And Pokemon GO does get people outside… kind of. Check out the official video:



I gotta admit, I was kind of appalled when I watched it. The players are outside, even in nature, but they’re glued to their phones. They smile at each other in passing, but they’re still on their own. But I’m sort of old-school when it comes to nature. I think that to best experience nature’s restorative benefits, you can’t be hooked up to technology. You have to unplug to recharge. There is some research that affirms this, but right now we’re talking about Pokemon.

My friend and I were sitting outside a café on a lovely morning last weekend when we spotted a young couple walking down the sidewalk, each staring at their individual phones. Then we saw another couple doing it and tried hard not to resort to the usual tut-tutting that we thought was reserved for our grandparents: “Kids these days, no one talks to each other, they’re all obsessed with their own devices,” etc. Then yesterday a Twitter friend said she’d gone down the Pokemon GO rabbithole and I looked it up and – bingo! Those kids were playing the game! So, they were outside (good!), they were sort of interacting with each other (good…), playing a game sort of with each other (good…)… but glued to a tiny screen, immersed in a fake reality, chasing a cartoon character, not interacting with anyone around them—not even the other couple that was doing the same thing. Hmmmmm…..

I try to be open to–and even embrace–new technology. I love apps that help me identify trees and butterflies, or that help me not get lost when I’m on a hike, or that connect me with other nature- and garden-lovers. I’m very excited about this invention that provides positive distraction to children before they go into surgery. I’m pretty sure that gazing at a nature view would not immerse these kids enough at that stressful moment.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 3.25.15 PM

I heard this piece on Morning Edition (“Pokemon Go: The Live Video Game Everyone Seems To Be Playing“) and this snippet brought up some interesting points:

Laura SYDELL: The western edge of Golden Gate Park is amazingly beautiful. There’s a view of the Pacific Ocean, a historic beach LA restaurant with a view of the water. Today, there are dozens of people that are in the restaurant parking lot. And they could [sic] care less about the ocean. They’re looking down at their smartphones. Danielle Sheridon says she’s searching for fictional monsters called Pokemon.

Dean Speer, 28-year-old personal trainer says Pokemon Go takes you places. You can’t play it sitting down. And the search reveals more of the world, like the entrance to a trail you’ve never noticed.

SPEER: I had walked by the entrance many times, never really realized it was an entrance. But then you’re like, wait, that’s a trail. And then you walk back there and suddenly there’s creeks and trees. And I’m like, oh, there’s more of this than just Golden Gate Park.

But, “judge not lest ye be judged,” or at least “see for yourself,” so today I reluctantly downloaded the app. And – surprise! – the site is so busy that I haven’t been able to try the game yet. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, what do you think? Is Pokemon GO fantastic, good, bad, evil…inevitable…all of the above? Leave a comment here, or join our conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In. We’ve been getting some great comments, click on “comments” below to read up.

Screen shot from the video. Is he sort of looking at the fountain…?


Gezi Park, Nearby Nature, and Democracy

Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Taksim Gezi Park protests,People at Taksim Gezi Park on 3rd Jun 2013. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Taksim Gezi Park protests,People at Taksim Gezi Park on 3rd Jun 2013. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons

Can you imagine a city without any parks? The recent mass (literally – they are happening all over the country) protests in Turkey, sparked by the government’s plans to raze the only remaining park in Istanbul, is a powerful indicator of people’s need for green space (click here for a good overview).

Yesterday I posted a fascinating New York Times Blog article, “Urban Trees as Triggers, From Istanbul to Oregon,” on our Facebook and Linked In groups for discussion. Filiz Satir, our TLN Blog Events Editor, wrote this response:

So, I have been following the events in Istanbul and Turkey with great interest. (My family is from Turkey.) What started out as a peaceful protest two weeks ago in opposition to construction of a shopping mall and the razing of park in the heart of Istanbul Turkey – quickly transformed into a countrywide political protest against the policies of governing AK Party and Prime Minister R.T. Erdogan. However, the original protests in the famous Gezi Park were about the public staking a claim on and fighting for one of the last remaining open spaces in this hub of Istanbul – truly a labyrinth of a metropolis.

I am nervous for what might happen in the next 8 to 10 hours as the PM issued an ultimatum earlier today – to shut down protesters in the park. This mini-documentary is compelling for showing Turkish civil society becoming politically engaged through their activities in and around Gezi Park, Taksim Square via @youtube

Gezi Park protests

A Turkish riot policeman uses tear gas as people protest against the destruction of trees in a park brought about by a pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central İstanbul on May 28, 2013. (Photo: Reuters, Osman Orsal)

What do you think of all of this? Please leave a comment here or on our Linked In group.

Filiz Satir, in addition to being our terrific Events Editor, is the author of the beautiful blog Nearby Nature: Lessons From the Natural World. She is a enior communications professional, technical writer, and storyteller with a track record for delivering institutional communications programs for a variety of public and private organizations. Thank you, Filiz!

Therapeutic Landscapes with The Patron Saint of Architecture

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

"The Patron Saint of Architecture" blog image courtesty of Angela Mazzi

This week on the blog, “The Patron Saint of Architecture,” Angela Mazzi features therapeutic landscapes through an interview with me. She asked some excellent, thought-provoking questions that get to the heart of what therapeutic landscapes are, how they function, why they’re necessary, and what designers and healthcare providers can do to make sure that they get incorporated into their projects.

Angela is an architect who specializes in healthcare. Her blog explores all sorts of aspects of healthcare-related design, including (of course) design, as well as business strategies, communication techniques, and “thoughts on how to get and stay inspired as a designer.”

Here are a couple snippets, but I encourage you to read the full post on The Patron Saint of Architecture blog.

How Does your Garden Grow? The Role of Therapeutic Landscapes in Design, by Angela Mazzi

What does landscaping mean to you?  Most likely, not nearly enough.  Too easily, we view it as decorative, a “nice to have” part of a project.  However, as we learn more about salutogenic design and the effects of the environment on wellness (everything from healing to better job performance), landscape starts to become a critical element, one which should form the basis of design.  With this in mind, I asked Naomi Sachs, Founder and Director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network (TLN) to share some insights on the power of nature.

What is the difference between landscaping and a garden?  Is it only about habitation?

In general, I would say that a “landscape” is any outdoor space, wild or designed, and a “garden” is a designed space. A restorative landscape is simply an outdoor space that makes you feel good when you’re in it. To me, “landscaping” implies decorative elements like a lawn, shrubs, some trees, and is not necessarily intended for interaction.  A therapeutic (or healing) garden is a space designed for a specific population (children, cancer patients, people with Alzheimer’s) and a specific intended outcome (stress reduction, positive distraction, rehabilitation). This is not to say that landscaping isn’t important. Well-designed and maintained landscapes communicate to patients and their families that they will receive a high level of care, and this can happen from the moment you cross the property line.  Even areas such as parking lots can utilize landscape to provide and reinforce the overall image and mission of the facility.

Maintenance is always a concern when it comes to landscaping- I’ve actually worked with healthcare clients who wanted nothing but grass in the areas they “had” to landscape for ease of maintenance.  What kind of recommendations can you make to landscape skeptics about using plantings?

Access to nature just makes good business sense. Studies by Roger Ulrich, confirmed by others, have demonstrated less need for pain medication, improved patient satisfaction, faster recovery rates, and many other examples of improved outcomes for patients and staff. When you really look at the benefits of providing access to nature, the return on investment (ROI) justifies the initial cost and lifetime maintenance.  Hospitals need to see landscaping as a strategic investment in the same manner they would the purchase of a new MRI.

Visit The Patron Saint of Architecture to read the full article. Thank you, Angela, for a great conversation and post!


What is “nature,” anyway?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Martha's Vineyard beach. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Martha's Vineyard coastline. Photo by Naomi Sachs

A colleague posed an interesting question recently, in relation to providing access to nature in the healthcare setting: If we are arguing for access to nature in hospitals and other places of healing, then we shouldn’t we define it? Yes!

So, what is “nature”? Here are some thoughts.
Note that since posting this two days ago, I’ve already changed my definition slightly. I’m sure it will continue to evolve. Skip to the bottom of the post to see my latest definition as well as reference to an excellent article that has made me re-think my original one.

Let’s start with some dictionary definitions.


Oxford English Dictionary:
– 1 the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations: “the breathtaking beauty of nature”
– the physical force regarded as causing and regulating these phenomena: “it is impossible to change the laws of nature” See also Mother Nature.

American Heritage Dictionary (
1. the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities.
2. the natural  world as it exists without human beings or civilization.
3. the elements of the natural  world, as mountains, trees, animals, or rivers.

Natural is generally defined as “existing in or derived from nature; not made or caused by humankind.” (OED)

Naturalistic is usually defined as something that imitates nature: Plastic made to look like wood. A garden designed with soft, curving lines rather than hard, rectilinear ones (think Central Park and Piet Oudolf rather than Versailles and  Martha Schwartz).

In the past, and even in most dictionary definitions, nature is seen as separate from humans and everything made by them. More recent thinking, and I am in this camp, argues that we human beings are not – cannot be – separate from nature because we are living, breathing beings not all that far removed from our “natural” animal relatives. We are nature and nature is us.

So let’s agree that humans are a part of nature.
Then what of the things that we make (other than other humans)? What of concrete, and glass, and hybrid plants like tulips and roses, and cloned sheep? Which of those are nature, or natural, and which are…not? (more…)

“My Garden Saved My Life.”

Thursday, June 24th, 2010
Lotus flower

Image courtesy of Henry Domke,

This is a really sweet sweet idea. Readers were asked to submit a paragraph about how “my garden saved my life,” with an accompanying image. Here are two excerpts:

In Tune with Nature
For me, it is simply the age-old connection to the earth itself. To dig in the ground, to watch new life spring forth, to reap the rewards of beautiful plants, flowers, maybe some edible fruits, vegetables, or herbs … that is all so enriching. And time spent in my garden is time spent away from every stressful thing in my life. I don’t think of it as me being in control of anything … I think of it as me being a PART of it all. Part of the earth, part of the plants, part of the seasons. Just in tune with nature, through and through.

Battling Breast Cancer
During my recent treatment for breast cancer, being in my garden helped me immensely. Although I couldn’t do much, just being outside and taking in the flowers, vegetables and all of the critters that go with a garden made me feel better. It also helped me not to feel sorry for myself and like I was accomplishing something, even if I just planted a couple of seeds that day.

Link to iVillage here to see all 15 slides. I’m sorry about all the annoying ads. Still, if you can work around those, it’s quite a nice post.

There’s also an essay titled “The Garden Saved My Life” by Barbara Blossom Ashmun, published in the anthology The Ultimate Gardener. Here’s the author’s blog post about it.

And what about you, dear reader? If you were asked the same question, what would your answer be? We’d love to hear from you, and others probably would, too! Leave a comment and let’s see what we have to say.