Summer Thesis Check-In: Dirt, Dirtiness, Phobias, and Rewilding


Every summer, we ask the students moving into their second year to send a couple short email check-ins to tell us about their thesis research, what they're reading, and what they're thinking. Here below (with permission) is Jenna Witzleben's latest note:

Hi Everyone!

I can’t believe summer is almost over already – it went by so quickly! I’m very excited to see you all again.

For my thesis, I’ve been continuing to broadly explore topics around protection and barriers from nature, dirt and dirtiness, phobias, and rewilding. I’ve also had some great experiences since the last check-in including a soil health workshop at the Lowline lab (with Karen!) and an urban foraging class with Wild Man Steve.

There’s a lot of interesting routes of exploration here including all the ways we protect/barrier ourselves (umbrellas to architecture to antibacterial soap), all of the things we barrier ourselves from (the elements, animals, allergens, etc.), and all of the existing barriers (social, financial, psychological). THEN there’s also interesting subject matter in DIY activism and transforming our existing world and selves, as well as design for a future wilder world (and a wilder human being).

My favorite book so far has been “The Once and Future World” by JB MacKinnon. He pushed the boundaries on my thinking as to how close to nature we should /could be. This book, as well as my foraging class, made me fearful of my own thesis – there is danger in the reintroduction of megafauna (as part of rewilding) and the potential to eat a toxic plant (while foraging). But then I hear Allan saying in the back of my head “good – danger and getting to an uncomfortable place means you should keep going!”

I’m looking forward to exploring futuring and world creation in these next couple weeks as a tool for visualizing opportunities and sharpening my focus.

For full descriptions and reflections of what I’ve been exploring / reading, please check out my blog: http://jennawitzleben.com/masters-thesis-blog/.

Happy Weekend!

Best,
Jenna