Hi I’m Ben Hale, a guy determined to change the world.
I live with my family in southwest Ohio, born and raised. I consider myself blessed with an awesome wife, two crazy sons, and amazing family and friends. I am avid in my pursuit of the rugged outdoors, appreciate the tug of a trout on fly, and love to create. Yet in reality, most of my time is spent trying to make our home habitable, having my son teach me how to play, doing the dishes, making dinner, and working at my day job.
I am driven into action by a belief echoed in the Permaculture prime directive, that ‘the only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children.‘ (Bill Mollison)
My wife rolls her eyes and my friends and family poke fun at the fact that we have a trash can, a recycling can, a wet compost can and a dry compost can. While I am admittedly a ‘green niche’ individual, I am determined to find ways for everyone to practically incorporate more responsible habits into their everyday actions.
Shaped and influenced by the world around me, I have been driven to make an impactful change in the way we all view this world and its natural ecosystems. I haven’t always been so self-aware of this drive, but I believe it has always been there. I believe this drive is in all of us – it’s just a matter of how effectively it has been ignored as we mature in modern society.
A long time ago…
My parents often would take us kids down to the local park, the hatching ground for wild imaginative escapades. From catching crawdads and salamanders, traversing harrowing trails, hopping from creek rock to creek rock, to chasing butterflies in the meadow and picking blackberries in late July, these early experiences shaped the buttress of what would become a deep connection to and appreciation of the natural world.
In kindergarten I was given a young pine tree during Earth Week that at the time was nothing more than a small twig with needles. Today, a pine tree at my parents’ house peers down at me from over twenty feet high in the same place I planted that twig so many years ago. I don’t think it’s imagination when I feel it thanks me with a gentle rustle each time I see it.
I consider this period in my life the formative period. I remember the emotions of these early years as a feeling of expansive possibility, imagination, creativity, and happiness.
Most nine-year-olds in 1994 were mostly concerned about Pogs, comic books, Polly Pocket, lucky trolls, and baseball cards. Yet few were concerned about the impending environmental disaster brought about by the buildup of trash along the property line of the school playground. Around the same time, my beloved childhood creek witnessed a massive disappearance of aquatic life. I learned what pollution was. And Captain Planet wasn’t around to help.
Enter the ‘I Help Save the Earth Club.’ In order to head off the environmental degradation sure to ensue, I founded the I Help Save the Earth Club in fourth grade. Initially, it was myself and a few buddies that I convinced to go around the playground and pick up trash during our recess a few times a week. I fashioned little badges for each of us using dot-matrix paper and Magic Markers and a little safety pin hot-glued to the back. The tweezers made out of bent coat hangers allowed us to pick up the spent cigarette butts without having to touch them.
Unaware of my uncanny sales ability at the time, I ended the year with over twenty badge-wearing members of the club that would stay an extra five minutes after recess ended to help keep the playground spotless. My irresistable charm undoubtedly was the reason my club had become so successful.
Who knows where the early leadership opportunity would have taken me had I remained at that school through fifth grade. However, life had other plans in store for me and my club faded into memory. While the school custodian seems to have done a fine job after the dissolution of my club, the experience was certainly formative in my development as I learned that one person with an idea can work to make a major difference – no matter the scale.
I consider this period in my life the awakening period. I had begun to realize that not everyone shared the same cherished reverence for the planet we call home. While my scale of change and the relocation of trash from playground to landfill may not have stopped some ecological Armageddon, the impact this experience had on me has been profound to this day. The world was not in perfect condition, and neither were the humans that lived upon it.
A bit later…
The next years were inadvertently focused inward, as I learned that I had seemingly endless interests in various hobbies and disciplines. Some would say it was still obvious I was meant to return to care of the earth someday, but it wasn’t so obvious to me at the time. Some of my hobbies and interests included a mineral collection – no not a ‘rock’ collection, learning how to build a hoop frame greenhouse, predicting the weather through the clouds, and the adventure of Boy Scout campouts.
Yet high school came and passed without any other clubs formed or disasters headed-off.
The one striking memory I have of this time period which served as another indicator occurred in less than two hours in a stuffy room in late February of 2002. I was competing as part of the school’s JV team at an engineering and technology competition. Nerd alert. Anyway, the whole day is spent competing on tests and challenges to see who is the
smartest coolest. One of these competitions was a group essay challenge where we were given several challenge prompts, and we had to work together to provide the best possible solution in a short time.
One prompt required us to design a business building to resist hurricane winds after the previous structure had collapsed. I jumped at this opportunity. I had just recently researched quite a bit into landscape design. I was already a weather nerd. I broke off from the rest of the group as I drafted what I recall as the perfect answer to this question. A kid with a smartphone couldn’t have gotten the specificity I was able to provide in that essay. I not only designed a wind resistant building, but also provided a comprehensive land design plan based on the prevailing wind and storm heading, coastline direction, and optimal drainage. It was one of those moments where it just felt right. Where I knew I was the best.
We ended up winning the state JV title and second place nationally for that competition. Not exactly a state football trophy, but I still have the scratched-up coffee cup.
I consider this and later years the searching period. I was searching for my path and thought I was on it many times. I even crossed the right path several times. Those were those times that felt right. Sometimes you just don’t realize it until you look back.
The past several years have been a steady but sure awakening to the realization of my calling to pursue this unquenchable interest in the natural world, environmental soundness, ecology, biological systems, land design, and artistic expression. It is the synergy of these interests that propels me. This synergy is what drives me to share my world with you. And this synergy gives me the energy to pursue endless education in the fields related to aesthetic and ecological landscape design.
I am here to share what I have learned with you to bring my vision of a better interaction with our world to life.
I thank you for joining me on this journey into a new and better world.
I only ask one thing: that you open your mind to the possibility that we can live in better harmony with each other and with the soil we stand upon.
Thanks for visiting Aesthetic Ecosystems and for taking the time to read about me! Stick around for a while and share your own contributions!
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Be well, do good, and keep in touch,
“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children”