Location: Washington, DC area
In an increasingly urbanized world, we are bound to find a better connection with ourselves in nature than with our WiFi networks. That is the idea that drives Tom Stoner, founder of the TKF Foundation, who along with his wife and colleagues have funded dozens of restorative green spaces throughout the Washington-Baltimore area via their Nature Sacred program.
The foundation recently announced $4.5 million in new grants for six projects, where “scientists from a number of different disciplines – neuroscience, immunology, genomics, and others – will work to study the effects of specially designed spaces on people living in an urban environment or who are otherwise under stress. Grant winners will study the impacts of a range of projects: from a landscaped refuge at a Maryland hospital to a verdant retreat in Brooklyn's Naval Cemetery, and a healing environ for tornado-devastated Joplin, Missouri.
Stoner's take on the word “sacred” is not meant to be religious. He suggests "it is a sense that these spaces are important, intimate. It’s about our individual, personal relationship with nature.
Stoner thinks that quantitative proof of the health benefits of well-designed green space could go a long way toward encouraging better funding of the kind of places that we need to maintain our physical and mental health in a rapidly urbanizing world.
Cities, in a counterintuitive way, are more sustainable settlements that provide housing for thousands or millions of people, as high-density centers offer energy efficient smaller homes, transit systems, and concentrations of services. Yet life in cities can be stressful, and residents can feel removed from nature, the wellspring of all that sustains us.
Research of the past few decades provides evidence of how nearby nature is essential for human habitat. Nature offers restorative settings and experiences, including sacred encounters.
A luminous sunset or a glimpse of the tracery of tree branches are just a few of the nature encounters that can instill a sense of calm, contemplation, or inspiration.
On a trip to England in 1995, Tom and Kitty Stoner visited an urban park tucked in the midst of a busy London neighborhood. This serene and protected park was used by many as a place of refuge during World War II. Wooden benches lined the walking path. On the back of many of the benches were the reflections of those who experienced a sense of community and solace in this special place during the worst days of WWII.
It was Tom and Kitty’s belief that if an urban greenspace could provide such a place of sanctuary at such a difficult time in history, perhaps places conceived and created by urban communities in our time could also provide opportunities for reflection and rejuvenation. From this idea – and with this desire – the TKF Foundation was formed. The speed, violence and alienation that characterize our current period in human history create an important need for open spaces, sacred places. It is the Foundation’s hope that the spaces it has helped to support bring some peace and well being to people’s lives.
In 2010, the TKF Foundation began the final decade of its philanthropy with a National Open Spaces Sacred Places Award Initiative designed to support the creation of significant new Open Spaces Sacred Places across the country. These sites will serve as demonstration and research sites for the study of the impact of nature on the human spirit.
The mission of the TKF Foundation is to provide the opportunity for a deeper human experience by inspiring and supporting the creation of public greenspaces that offer temporary sanctuary, encourage reflection, provide solace and engender peace and well being. We envision a world in which opportunities abound for all individuals to experience peace and well being through a personal connection to nature and spirit.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"
Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)
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Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster
Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.
I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.