“The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revolves around us.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
I write this post with reference to Singapore but I believe that many cities out there also share a similar relationship with nature. Singapore is a garden-city and trees are everywhere. Yet at the same time, we have a rather strange relationship with nature. In Singapore, nature serves practical purposes, e.g. trees serve as carbon sinks, offer shade and prevent soil runoff. Grass is intentionally grown beside roads to prevent flooding and flowers are placed to beautify the concrete jungle. A bridge is built to allow animals to cross from one nature reserve to another. Nature is appropriated and “used” to serve the urban dwellers’ needs based on the principle of utilitarianism.
But nature is alive and sometimes nature takes us by surprise and unintentionally becomes something inconvenient. Take the monitor lizard that went onto the road, the birds that flew into apartments or the chickens that simply made too much noise.
Sometimes we think that we own the habitat and we are the ones who invite the flora and fauna to stay if and only if they serve some practical purposes for us. But the truth is we are part of the ecosystem. This land, i.e. the habitat, does not belong to us. We are sharing this space with other species. We need to learn to coexist with nature which may be less pretty than it is imagined on paper: the overgrown roots, the bees in the parks and the unwanted “visitors” in our neighbourhoods.
Humans have been around on this Earth for about 6000 years and that is a short time considering the Earth itself is around 4.5 billion years old. Life did not begin because humans wanted to. Animals and plants have been around for a longer time than us. We can try to bring them into the cities but we need to know that we cannot control them. It is also presumptuous to think that we know for sure how everything works on Earth. I believe that there are still things that we are unaware of and many more things that we are unaware that we are unaware.