J:”Excuse the pun, but the seeds have planted in many ways across the city for action to happen, we just have to wait and see if people think it’s important enough for the future.”
L: “We will keep going with the resources we’ve got, we will keep looking for new resources and new, perhaps different ways of doing things by working with other people. Any initiatives people have going we’ll try and get the park element in. We’ll just keep waiting and hopefully the penny drops, and the big opportunity appears on the horizon.”
Leaving my interview with Lindsay, I had a bittersweet feeling. Here is a passionate environmentalist, working against harsh odds forced upon her by central government and merciless budget cuts. This story is not isolated, however; many other civil servants across the UK continue to struggle with underfunded, and oft-ignored environmental departments. This is why it’s so incredible to still see hopeful notes being struck. No matter the odds, they know that the best outcome for both humans and nature is to protect our environments, and to find ways to bring nature back into our artificial worlds.
Whenever I go onto the Common, I must eventually leave to go home. There, I turn my PC on and plug in my camera. Through a digital screen I capture not just personalities, but lives intertwined with their surroundings. Sotoncommoners would not exist without city parks. In fact, life as we know it would not be the same without parks. Grey, dreary, rainy days are common enough in the UK. Many of us wish for hotter climates. Yet where there is hot weather there is the Urban Heat Island: heat trapped through the day released again at night, keeping cities toasty and far from the cool twilight temperatures which humans are used to.
Not only this, but many of us take our few remaining (semi)-natural city environments for granted. Litter is ubiquitous, wild animals either disappear or are replaced by urban equivalents. There are whole other worlds bristling away in every hedgerow, every patch of grass, every pond which we preserve. With the continuous expansion of cities, and the migrations of humans into urban areas, we must become benevolent masters of the natural world. It depends on us, we may very well depend on it.
Through nature, we may find peace. It is without a doubt that humans see significant health benefits from being out amongst trees, plants, and animals. Lindsay gave me an interesting proposition shortly after I finished the interview: We have countless ways to measure the well-being of captive animals, and do so rigorously, yet we have little to no means with which to measure the happiness of humans living in cities. Perhaps if we focused on that, we could build better cities. This made me think more about the state of urban life: When we see an animal in the zoo, sleeping on concrete, in clearly sub-optimal conditions, we may protest to have that animal’s life improved. When we see the homeless sleeping rough, however, we may pass them by, and hope that others will help even if there’s really nobody to do so. In fact, I doubt that the sight of an old man nibbling away at a pastie on a grey, drizzly street would merit so much as a second thought to a passerby, and yet it should raise eyebrows and have us questioning our way of life.
Is city life healthy if we only have artificial comforts? Can we really lead fulfilling lives if we don’t have a living world to enjoy?
We now have a choice: we can either improve our natural world and bring the wild side of Earth into the mundane side of our cities, or we can carry on as normal through our sunken, forlorn, artificial lives devoid of the spectacle and intrigue and wonder which nature provides.
I know what I want, do you?