I believe the solution to a whole bunch of our big problems may be nestled within the concept of rat parks.
If you’re wondering what the hell a rat park is, here is an excellent explanation of the Rat Park drug experiment in handy comic form.
We have accidentally isolated ourselves and we’re suffering.
We work among functional and perceptual silos. We live in increasing disconnection from our larger communities and the natural world. We are adrift in a jillion different kinds of socio-economic isolation that boil down to the fact that millions of us feel trapped, or alone in the world.
There is a pattern at the root of every addictive behavior, whether it’s drugs or drink or food or shopping or sex or even hoarding money.
These issues all relate to deep-seated needs going unfulfilled or emotional/psychological wounds going untreated.
People are — understandably — using whatever tools at their disposal to self-soothe, often with unintended or undesired consequences.
Passionate, determined attempts to break free from those cycles fail many of us over and over, because we’re essentially trying to throw away our crutch while we still have a broken leg.
Changing the “rat race” into playtime in the park.
When I refer to “rat parks” I’m usually talking about the consciously re-imagining of our surroundings and societal structures in ways that foster genuine connection and engagement with one another with the ultimate goal of everyone having access to more of what they need to thrive.
We’re essentially an apex species, and our well-being depends largely on the well-being of the ecosystems surrounding us. We’ve been doing a lot of things the wrong way.
Those things are holding us back on a species-wide level.
In order to make the most of this renaissance in humanity we’re entering, there are changes we need to make. We need do everything we can to make society more like a rat park and less like a cage.
It just so happens that creative placemaking is an easy, fun, and high-impact place to start.