Where Science Meets Art

Thank you APLD CA for asking me to write an article for your Fall issue of California Landscape Design. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about carbon recently. Along with oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, it is one of the essential building blocks of life. Through my journey of discovery, I have come to understand that we exist because of these elements, and that we are the same as the living creatures around us. Realizing that plants are made up of the same carbon atoms in our atmosphere was a life changing epiphany for me.

Why is that important? Our atmosphere is overloaded with more carbon than the current photosynthesizing life on earth can handle. Our climate is warming up too rapidly and our oceans are acidifying, killing off oxygen-giving phytoplankton. Currently, 1/3 of arable land is experiencing desertification and it is getting worse.

Plants—our unsung heroes—are the ultimate carbon sequester-ers. What other technologies can take the power of the sun, the carbon in the air, plus the nutrients from the soil and create food for all living things? And as they build themselves, plants move that same carbon into the soil where it belongs.

But when we destroy our native soils through urbanization or poor agricultural practices, that life-essential carbon is released from the soil into the atmosphere, while droughts worsen and desertification spreads.

It is important to think about how our practices will impact nature when we develop a site. Ecological landscape design marries science and art in its pursuit to restore the balance of nature.

Rather than thinking of your garden or landscape as a product, think of it as a process…just as nature would. If we can patiently treat our process as rehabilitation—instead of revision—we allow nature to regenerate itself.

Inviting the carbon from the atmosphere back into our soils through regenerative landscape practices will save the planet and extend our time on it.

Want to learn more about ways you can make a difference? Have questions about how this works and the techniques being used? Look for upcoming articles and presentations.

Shawn Maestretti is Principal at Shawn Maestretti Garden Architecture. He is a landscape architect, contractor, certified arborist and educator. He studied landscape architecture at UCLA Extension and has been working with Kiss the Ground  and The Climate Reality Project to spread the message of regenerative landscape practices.



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