Discover more from Place Writing
 Blue Zones
Place - a case study
Researchers, lead by Dan Buettner, discovered that certain places on earth contain clusters of centenarians who are well enough, in mind and body, to lead active lives. They tagged them Blue Zones and they’re fascinating places for the stories they contain about longevity. The secrets are really quite simple and, unsurprisingly, a lot of them are related to food.
I eat a whole-food plant-based diet, but is it enough?
Laid out over four episodes, ‘Live to 100: The Secrets of the Blue Zones’, is a series (currently showing on Netflix) that explains the similarities between the locations and lifestyles that support these clusters. The Blue Zone areas are: Okinawa in Japan, some mountain villages in Sardinia, Loma Linda in California, USA, the Island of Ikaria in Greece, and Nicoya in Costa Rica. (For more information I’ve included a link to a research paper below.)
Why are Blue Zones relevant to Place Writing? Well, when we write about place we look at it from many angles. We are not just passing through, but staying, being present, listening, understanding, appreciating the special aspects of the location and learning about the lives of the people who live there. My fascination with Place Writing came out of my desire to understand the way we live, how we make spaces to call home, and how past events affect future decisions.
Blue Zones are rather unusual case studies and, having watched the Netflix series, it made me think that when we write about place we could first do so from a scientific perspective. By asking a series of questions we could draft an outline for our writing. For instance: What is special about this place? What are its geographical boundaries? Can they be drawn on a map? What aspects of life in this place do I need to focus on? What data can I gather about this location and the people that live there, and the flora and fauna? How much of my study will be based on hard evidence, and how much on anecdote? What other sources can be drawn upon to support my research? Why am I so interested in it?
Then, like a scientist, the data will be evaluated and conclusions drawn. This last aspect is important because Place Writing is not just about re-telling facts, it’s about putting a new perspective on place. We need to think about what we’ve learned and use our creative writing skills to interpret this information and generate new ideas. Perhaps, if the places we write about have similarities, we might even re-label them to give them a new identity - they could be our own version of Blue Zones.
I love this photograph, taken at an exhibition that celebrated some long-lived inhabitants of Oklahoma.
Would you like to live to 100?
Have you watched the Netflix documentary? What do you think about it?
What places do you have in mind for your next piece of writing?
Subscribers to Place Writing live in twenty-nine countries around the world and although we have a common interest in writing about place, I can safely bet that we all experience vastly different lifestyles. Nevertheless, we might all wish to live better, more healthy, and happier lives. How can we do this? We cannot all move to Ikaria in Greece or Nicoya in Costa Rica. We can, however, apply what is known about these special places to our everyday lives. The lessons of the Blue Zones are relevant to us all and, thankfully, it isn’t about how wealthy we are or how well we’ve done in our career, it’s about making our immediate environment support our needs. There is no better time to embed some new and better lifestyle choices than now!
I look forward to chatting with you in the comments, and if you use Substack Notes feel free to Restack this post!
Bye for now!
Links & Credits:
Photo credits: First image, Nicoya, Costa Rica by Milei Vencel. Second image, portraits of Oklahoma centenarians by M.J. Alexander, on display at the Oklahoma Heritage Association - author: Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum.
See scientific literature: Blue Zones. ’What began as a National Geographic expedition, lead by Dan Buettner, to uncover the secrets of longevity, evolved into the discovery of the 5 places around the world where people consistently live over 100 years old, dubbed the Blue Zones.’
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