Wednesday, September 26, 2001


We don't often think about the world before we humans existed. Yet, we ponder questions of creation, our purpose and how the world came to be. Perhaps this is what sets us apart from other living creatures. It's difficult to imagine living things evolving from common ancestors that do not seem remotely related, which is probably why evolution is so poorly understood. Species diversification is absolutely amazing. I was once told that if the history of the planet were condensed into one minute, the existence of humans would flash by in a fraction of a second. Our thinking is slightly egotistical in this way because we often cannot easily picture a world without some sort of human influence (eg. last week's writing assignment). Why do we have such a hard time with this?
The Secret Garden

When Mary discovered her secret garden, tucked away from the world, she became fiercely protective of its anonymity and its place in her world. I would venture that this is not an unusual reaction. Many people feel this way about their gardens and green spaces especially in highly urban areas like Toronto. A place of solace far removed from honking horns, ringing cell phones, talking and grinding motors. Something to be proud of and enjoy. I know I feel excited when I discover a quiet corner of the world which has yet to be intruded upon by many. A garden may be of sentimental value as well, reminding people of plants that might have grown in their home countries. Mary immediately recognized the rose vines as a beautiful plant that grew in her country of India. People often bring cuttings and seeds from plants that have grown in many different parts of the world as a way to preserve a bit of culture. Perhaps that is why many are protective of wilderness areas. Perhaps we seek a connection with these areas. Just as Dickon sought to connect with the rabbits, pheasants, squirrels and other wildlife of his environment, I think we attempt to do the same in our environments. We feed birds, take pictures of whales, go on cruises to observe first hand the calving of icebergs and support causes like Greenpeace. We have this desire to connect as well as protect our "gardens".

The state of Mary's garden, left mainly on its own for ten years, reminded me of last week's writing assignment. When reflecting on the state of the world, in the future, without humans, I did not consider the efects of unaltered, uncontrolled growth in gardens. I never imagined that some species of plants would completely crowd out other more delicate ones. I never thought of the plant world as being so cutthroat. I had a rosy image of everything living harmoniously together once they were able to return to a "natural" state. What exactly is a "natural" state? Perhaps a state unaltered by humans. Mary wanted her garden to thrive but not in an "unnatural" way. A preservation, in a sense. What does this mean?

I would like to add a few comments on Kady C's blog on the general lack of apathy people feel towards greenery. I think she makes several good points regarding people's lack of interest in plants, their lack of connection with them and lack of knowledge of them. We see green space and may think it's beautiful but not many of us are inspired to run out and learn the names of all the trees, plants and flowers within it. But maybe that's not the point. Maybe it's enough that we enjoy the beauty of it and how it makes us feel.

Sunday, September 23, 2001

One hundred years in the future without humans

One hundred years in the future, after the demise of humans, I picture North America overrun with all kinds of plant and animal life. I envision weeds pushing up through cracked asphalt roads and freeways. I see crumbling houses, inhabited by racoons and cats. Stores, long emptied of their food content, will serve as fox dens and dog shelters. Underground subway lines will be choked with stagnant sewage-laden water, roots and grasses that have pushed their way through the concrete. Once tidy lawns will resemble unkempt overgrowth interspersed with lawn furniture and garden nomes. Signs will dangle eerily lost, with no one to read them. Seasons will pass without a flip of the calendar page and only the preparations of hibernating animals to mark them. Temperate forests will grow again and restock themselves as animal dwellers spread out into new niches formerly closed to them. Acid rain will continue to fall and erode any trace of the existence of humans. Many underground water sources and soils will be contaminated with pollution from the leaking of buried drums holding our industrial toxic wastes. I picture swamps and marshes full of reeds. I picture ocean life thriving and shores teeming with crabs, insects, birds and seaweed. I imagine cows and chickens intermingling with zebra in Africa's wildlife parks like the Serengeti. I also predict the slow recovery of vast tracks of desertified, salinized, sterile farmlands. Dry grasses and shrubs just making an appearance, one hundred years into the future. I see thick layers of windblown dust and dirt covering the glass countertops of shops and dead vehicles, disturbed only by the tracks of rats and mice. I picture tropical countries reverting back to rainforest-like states, with lush undergrowth and palm trees, bending under the weight of unpicked coconuts. Within the rainforests themselves, biodiversity flourishes with new species existing beside old. Oranges drop to the ground and rot, providing sustenance for the maggots, ants and beetles living at the base of its trees. Islands like Hawaii, Australia and Madagascar will experience accelerated levels of evolution. The world will be a much quieter place.