The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life

HumaNature Pt. 1

November 02, 2023 Stacey Wheeler Season 2 Episode 27
HumaNature Pt. 1
The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life
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The Soul Podcast - Tools For a Joyful Life
HumaNature Pt. 1
Nov 02, 2023 Season 2 Episode 27
Stacey Wheeler

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We are part of nature and nature is part of us. When we are deprived of connection with nature we suffer. In this episode I look at an industry built around the idea of making us feel better about being indoors all day.

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SHOW NOTES

 Reference:

Friedensreich Hundertwasser Austrian artist (1928–2000), www.hundertwasser.at                                                                An Austrian visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection.

Quotes:

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. —Henry David Thoreau

"What we lack is a peace treaty with nature. We must restore to nature the territories we have unlawfully taken from it.  Everything horizontal under the sky belongs to nature. Everything touched by the rays of the sun, everywhere where the rain falls is nature’s sacred and inviolable property. We men are merely nature’s guests..." - Friedensreich Hundertwasser

“A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.” -Frank Lloyd Wright

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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

We are part of nature and nature is part of us. When we are deprived of connection with nature we suffer. In this episode I look at an industry built around the idea of making us feel better about being indoors all day.

Watch Videos
The SoulPod on Rumble
The SoulPod on YouTube 

Take the listener survey here


SHOW NOTES

 Reference:

Friedensreich Hundertwasser Austrian artist (1928–2000), www.hundertwasser.at                                                                An Austrian visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection.

Quotes:

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. —Henry David Thoreau

"What we lack is a peace treaty with nature. We must restore to nature the territories we have unlawfully taken from it.  Everything horizontal under the sky belongs to nature. Everything touched by the rays of the sun, everywhere where the rain falls is nature’s sacred and inviolable property. We men are merely nature’s guests..." - Friedensreich Hundertwasser

“A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.” -Frank Lloyd Wright

Support the Show.

Has the show made a difference for you? Click this link for ways you can support the show.

Henry David Thoreau  said,

“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

Welcome to The Soul Podcast. I’m Stacey Wheeler.

In the late 1970s companies in office buildings in large cities started to notice something strange. Their workers were starting to show a variety of symptoms. The symptoms were sometimes different from person to person but included variations of:

·         Headaches

·         Blocked or runny nose

·         Dry, itchy skin

·         Dry, sore eyes

·         And even Rashes

These symptoms sometimes caused people to miss work, or even quit and move to other companies. Most often, they lead to tiredness and difficulty concentrating, which meant people were less productive. This was happening in London, New York, Hong King… really anywhere there were new or remodeled office buildings. 

Early on, no one was comparing notes. Each company that noticed the problem tried to figure out what was causing the problem. Typically, the issues were first noticed by the Human Resources department.  It was causing a problem with employee satisfaction, productivity and retention. People were missing work and leaving their jobs at a higher rate.

HR moved the information up the ladder and upper management started to wonder, “Why are people so unhappy and unproductive?”

Lost hours and lost productivity were a problem. Companies were concerned.

At the time, these companies didn’t know the problem was happening all over. It would be years before they’d start to connect those dots. So, each company worked independently to try to figure out what was going on. They started looking at every possible factor. Even hired consultants, which looked at things like:

Mold and other environmental contaminants -such as paint, insulation, rigid foam, particle board, and plywood used in construction. They theorized the ventilation system was moving chemicals through the air, causing the problems. Allergies could be triggered by the chemicals used in the building materials. This could account for some of the issued but not all. 

The ventilation systems in these new and remodeled buildings were mostly the new energy efficient type. So, they speculated they weren’t as efficient at circulating bad air out and good air in… or maybe the bad air was outside?! The ventilation might be a factor, they decided… but it alone didn’t solve the riddle. 

They commissioned expensive studies on the effects of traffic noise and poor lighting. They created great spreadsheets on how the inhabitants of buildings located in a polluted urban area seem to quickly become ill… missing more days of work than those in less urban offices. 

The studies went on for many years before companies started to compare notes and realized this was a wide-spread problem. By now it was the 80s and around this time they started calling the problem Sick Building Syndrome (or SBS). One study at the time found that psycho-social circumstances in the businesses appeared to be causing more of the symptoms than the tested environmental factors. Maybe management need to manage differnelty? Maybe business structures needed to change? Arguments arose around the research… but there was still not consensus on what was causing all the job loss, discomfort, and loss in production. 

By now, companies were compiling data to calculate how much money was lost annually per employee because of SBS. They were still looking for a solution. They couldn’t find a common denominator. 

As the research was compared from organization to organization something interesting emerged. The lowest rates of sickness in organizations were found in businesses associated with forestry, agriculture, and with sales workers. They started to examine this information to see if they could figure out why.

By the mid to late 80s companies were releasing guidelines to reduce SBS symptoms. These were lengthy documents that made recommendations on things like building materials, ventilation system refits, mold abatement, reducing the length of time spent inside, replacement of old stained ceiling tiles, replacing stained old or stained carpeting… and dozens of other suggestions. These changes could count anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to millions per building. And they alone did not fix the problem. They would later realize they were shooting all around the target -and just missing it. 

Over time, through employee surveys and observation, companies decided having more plants in their buildings and at desks could improve the feel of the office environments.  People felt plants made the place feel “homier” and “more natural.” So, people started bringing them in. But they found plants didn’t do well in windowless cubicles and behind UV protected glass windows. Many plants seemed to wither like some of the people in these offices. But they did make the places less drab while they were alive. 

In 1989 NASA a scientist published a report, saying household plants could provide a "promising economical solution to indoor air pollution." This was intended to be a recommendation for long distance space flight air quality concerns, but also for the SBS problems NASA was having in their office buildings. The scientist understood that through the process of photosynthesis, plants convert the carbon dioxide we exhale and also remove gases from the air through a process called absorption.

Would this help the companies reduce the effects of SBS?

Some companies sought out and found plants that did better in the low light and dry air of an office. They brought those in. Eventually, small companies started to pop up in cities to provide plants for the large companies. They came by weekly to take care of them, and replaced them with new ones, if they started to lose their luster. This assured companies would always have fresh vibrant plants around the office. The plants brought some of the outdoors indoors but also provided the added benefit of filtering the air. 

People seemed happier, the air seemed cleaner and SBS symptoms started going down. Today there’s an industry providing plants for office buildings in New York, London, Hong Kong… and other cities around the world.    

In the end, there was never an agreement on what caused the problem. There seemed to be many things that caused it. There was a consensus though on one of the best tools to improve the situation. Today, some of the primary recommendations to combat SBS include:

·         Make sure the office has access to natural light

·         Open windows/improve ventilation

·         Encourage staff to venture outdoors for lunch and breaks

·         Have plants in and around the office space

Essentially, try to help people have the highest exposure to the outdoors or nature as possible. Remember, the lowest rates of sickness in organizations were found in businesses associated with forestry, agriculture, and with sales workers (many of these being outside sales). Being in or around nature is good for us. Being kept from nature is bad for us and can even lead to mental, emotional and physical decline. 

More than a decade was spent looking for a cause. And the solution was simple. Get closer to nature. 

The more we fight to conquer nature, the more we find we are part of it, and it is part of us. 

For more than two million years we’ve evolved as a species. And the vast, vast majority of this time we were in direct exposure to nature. So, we evolved as part of it. The amount of time we’ve lived in human built, non-organic spaces has been less than 1% of the period of our evolution. Our bodies and spirits are meant to be in connection with nature. A building is not natural. A building is a creation of humankind. Buildings are made of straight lines, rigid angles and sterile walls. It’s not where we evolved to thrive.

In 1985, the Austrian visual artist and architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser wrote, 

“…the straight line has become an absolute tyranny.  The straight line is something cowardly drawn with a rule, without thought or feeling; it is a line which does not exist in nature.                                                                                                              And that line is the rotten foundation of our doomed civilization… The straight line is the only sterile line, the only line which does not suit man as the image of God. The straight line is the forbidden fruit. The straight line is the curse of our civilization.”

Yeah, I know… strong words. He also wrote,

"What we lack is a peace treaty with nature. We must restore to nature the territories we have unlawfully taken from it.  Everything horizontal under the sky belongs to nature. Everything touched by the rays of the sun, everywhere where the rain falls is nature’s sacred and inviolable property."

I’m not suggesting we tear down buildings and return to caves. Or that we should stifle forward progress -as if we could. Humans have an innate drive to make new stuff and improve old stuff. It’s what’s made us the dominant species on Earth. What we’ve lost in the process of progress is our connection with nature. And the best architects have always understood the importance of this. 

Frank Lloyd Wright was likely the most famous architect of the last century. He wrote,

“A building should appear to grow easily from its site and be shaped to harmonize with its surroundings if Nature is manifest there.” 

We are part of nature, the further we move away from it, the more we realize we suffer from its absence. We are linked to nature because we are nature ourselves. But we forget. When we remember -and feed our need for connection with nature we thrive. 

When’s the last time you took off your shoes and stood in the grass, or on a beach? Have you sat in nature recently. Watched a river run, listened to a stream flow across boulders in the woods? Look for an opportunity to feed your soul today. Go be in nature.