Article By: Brittany Preston In Cronan's essay he describes the shifting relationship between humans and the environment; recounting biblical connections, the evolution of agriculture, the displacement of First Nations people, and the creation of city spaces. The view that many communities hold regarding the relationship between the green and urbanized space is very problematic. Cronan explains that humans have created a paradox in which " the wilderness embodies a dualistic vision in which the human is entirely outside the natural...To the extent that we celebrate wilderness as the measure with which we judge civilization, we produce the dualism, that sets humanity and nature at opposite poles"(Cronan). Many societies view the relationship between nature and the city as binary, they are the opposite of one another, identifying wildlife and all other non-human actors as distant entities, disconnected from the human world.
This hegemonic dualism has become extremely problematic for wildlife, as our world is becoming more populated and overdeveloped. There must be a fundamental shift in the way that governments, cities and its people view the world around us. If nature continues to be viewed as a distant phenomenon, both humans and wildlife will feel the devastating consequences; wildlife has unfortunately already suffered.
Humans have historically placed wildlife in a distant sphere separate from humans, however, as Whatmore explains, all wildlife have fluid topologies. Humans cannot control the movements of wildlife, nor can we try and confine these organisms to one area. Humans constantly participate in conservative ecology through habitat conservation projects and endangered species protection initiatives, however this approach still compliments the dominant opinion that nature and the city should remain separate. Whatmore explains that, "animals (including humans) and rather less obviously, plants, lead mobile lives-on scales that vary from... the travels of a dung beetle to the global navigations of migrating whales and birds" ( Whatmore, 23). Wildlife is mobile and cannot be depended on to remain in designated areas, they are moving towards city spaces. In Whatmore's article she explains how different species of birds, water voles, and otters have begun to inhabit city canals and how humans need to recognize that we must share spaces with wildlife, not just ignore them. Wildlife is apart of city spaces, whether it is a squirrel, pigeon, or the common housefly, nature is in the city and it is time for them to gain greater recognition.
It is ignorant for one to think that nature and the city are separate. In my initial definition of nature and the city, I explain how " nature is all around us, not just in areas with little human disturbances". In this definition I barely stray from the hegemonic dualisms that dominant our thoughts about nature and the city, as I go on to explain that the absence of humans is what "true" nature is for me. I now have a different view of what nature is; it is all around us, nature is the city, we as human beings are nature. The city is simply a sociocultural product of human evolution, what once used to be green space has now developed into large human settlements. Cities are constructed in a way to help its inhabitants thrive, which predominantly consists of humans. We now know that wildlife deserves a place in the city, as there is nothing humans can do to stop the movement of wildlife into these urban spaces; unless of course we choose to exterminate all unwanted inhabitants.
Cronan and Whatmore give excellent arguments as to why we must reconsider our dominant social constructs of the city. We cannot "live in an urban-industrial civilization but at the same time pretend to ourselves that our real home is in the wilderness, to just that extent we give ourselves permission to evade responsibly for the city"(Cronan). Whatmore further explains that wildlife has its own ideas, and that it cannot be confined to the border zones that humans create. It is necessary that there is a change in the way people think about the relationship between nature and city; instead of keeping them separate we must try and bridge the theoretical gap. The city is a natural construction by human beings, for many communities the city is a space in nature that as evolved to fit the needs and wants of humans. Humans have created a natural habitat in which they can most easily thrive in, however people refuse to believe that the city is apart of nature, and keep it as a distant thought so they do not feel responsible for destroying a space that allows non-human wildlife thrive as well.
I have personally never wanted to live in the city, and I have decided now that I will make it my personal obligation to never live in a large city space. I realize that large cities are apart of social evolution and that they are natural product of human life. However I refuse to be apart of a social structure that is so unwelcoming to non-human wildlife. I do not want to partake in a livelihood that has created such unfavorable environments for anything other than humans. Whatmore suggests it is time to use more resources focused on recombinant ecology rather than conservative ecology. It is of course still important to preserve national parks and conservation areas; however, we cannot ignore the fact that wildlife will leave these spaces and travel to new areas. Humans cannot continue to be passive bystanders, allowing the total destruction of green space if we truly want to help wildlife thrive. We need to research the patterns of wildlife inhabiting the city and learn how we can create living conditions suitable for both human and non-human wildlife. This concept is much easier said than done, in order to create a favorable environment for wildlife, the city would have to make some major structural, theoretical, and moral changes. We can no longer view non-human wildlife as beings that are beneath humans, we are all apart of nature and it is possible for us to thrive together, and this does not mean behind the bars of cage, or backyard. We need to reconstruct the dominant social constructs of the city, and change the way people think about their relationship with the world around them. We need to promote recombinant ecology and create areas in which wildlife and humans can thrive. Perhaps it is time to revert back to an agricultural society, to our roots, and live more sustainable lifestyles, abstain from greed, and create living spaces suitable for both humans and wildlife. When communities start to acknowledge city space as a part of nature, it will be the first step to creating a better world for all.
Works Cited Whatmore, S. (1999) "Hybrid Geographies: Rethinking the 'Human' in Human Geography" in Doreen Massey, John Allen and Philip Sarre (eds) in Human Geography Today. Cambridge: Polity Press, 336-348.
Cronon, W. (1996) "The problem with the wilderness or getting back to the wrong nature." (Available online: http://www.williamcronon.net/writing/Trouble_with_Wilderness_Main.html)