WILD Wes: Our Group
WILD Wes: Our Group
WILD Wes, Working for Intelligent Landscape Design at Wesleyan, was created in the Fall of 2010. The vision of the group was to move beyond the notion of lawns and the campus as a "pristine" space and towards a new vision that would re-define how our college campus could look. This vision, we believe, would begin to build a world that reflects our commitment to the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability, and would above all, aim to embody the principles of permaculture:
A way of designing systems that are modeled on the relationships found in nature, looking at the ecology of how beings live and interrelate with one another, in order to create stable and productive systems; it's a system of design where each element supports and feeds other elements, ultimately aiming at systems that are virtually self-sustaining and into which humans fit as an integral part but neither as the only nor the most important part. WILD Wes works to "eliminate negative environmental impacts completely through skillful, sensitive design." Manifestations of sustainable design require no non-renewable fuels, impact the environment minimally, and perhaps most importantly, set out to redefine the entire concept of "work".
A 3/4 acre courtyard situated in a cluster of dormitory buildings on Wesleyan’s campus — was/is the first landscape re-design that WILDWes has implemented after a year of research, planning, and collaborative design. Our primary goal is to prove the viability of low-maintenance, low-input landscaping, and to demonstrate that this type of design is more sustainable, more vibrant, and more socially accessible to all who work and live on campus. The WestCo Courtyard Project was the first step in what we envision as a permanent shift in design paradigm across our campus community and many others, one that embodies a truly ‘sustainably responsible’ university campus. Through our project, we will create a new culture of sustainability, an outpost against reckless development, and an exceptional and transferable example for institutions around the world. Upholding Wesleyan’s legacy of meaningful engagement requires us to become leaders in sustainable design. This leadership is premised not upon words, but upon tangible implementation of systems that confront pressing global challenges while making our immediate environment more appealing.
A neglected and compacted dirt slope in the Butterfields courtyard, it served as the unsightly walkway and bike path up to the dining hall. After a few years of slippery, icy winters, and muddy springs, the university recognized the need for a staircase. It was going to be a university contracted construction site, but WILD Wes requested to undertake the project, and in the fall of 2012 was granted permission by Physical Plant to complete it in a more sustainable, affordable manner.
During the 2012-2013 academic year, the WILD Wes student groups and student forums designed the site, and started implementation with three interns during the summer of 2013. With the use of recycled materials and without fossil fuels, a staircase was built, surrounded by terraces on either side, which were then planted the following summer (2014).
"For the sake of the earth itself, I evolved a philosophy close to Taoism from my experiences with natural systems...it is a philosophy of working with rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action; of looking at systems and people in all their functions, rather than asking only one yield of them; and of allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions. A basic question that can be asked in two ways is:
"What can I get from this land, or person?" or
"What does this person, or land, have to give if I cooperate with them?"
Bill Mollison, Permaculture: A Designers' Manual
Sustainable Landscape Design
Environmental crises such as climate change, resource depletion, biodiversity loss, the effects of urban sprawl, and the buildup of toxins in our soil, air and water threaten the livability of our planet on a fundamental level. We believe that the design of our built environment and how we choose to maintain it reflects our values and our commitment to future generations. If we value a livable planet we must design our landscape in such a way that privileges environmental resilience and human health over waste and consumption. From these concerns stems our primary focus – how can we design for communities so that they can confront macro level environmental crises, while simultaneously making them more livable and just for their inhabitants?
Campus Lawns and their Alternatives.
Extensive lawn cover is disastrous for the environment. Maintaining conventional grass lawns through the use of pesticides, continual mowing, and chemical fertilizers creates serious and well-documented ecological and public health problems. Heavy use of fossil fuels, the release of toxins into our immediate environment, and massive expenditures of water are chief among the practical concerns posed by traditional lawns. Wesleyan’s lawn maintenance requires approximately 1,347 gallons of gas and 2,434 gallons of diesel per year, which means that more than 40 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released each year and 641 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre. Furthermore, the work put into maintaining these lawns are inefficient and unsustainable. For these reasons, we must shift towards a permaculture method of landscaping.
A paradigm that is more aesthetically compelling and ethically sound exists
By shifting to native ground cover, wildflower meadows, and edible plants we stand to make significant reductions in CO2 emissions, detoxify the local environment, and conserve freshwater resources. Fruit and nut trees promote health and happiness (for both human and non-human animals) by presenting an abundance of local produce for all. Wildflower meadows and native species support biodiversity while allowing robust ecological systems to elegantly carry out the functions currently performed by petrochemicals. By moving beyond the ubiquitous application of lawns we free ourselves to develop a more distinct and beautiful landscape—one that is simultaneously educative, productive, and sustainable.