Earlier this month I was watching Planet Earth, the episode named, ‘Cities’ from season 2. I noted how harsh life is for animals in the cities and as the human population grows the number of highly developed cyber-cities with skyscrapers and high-rise apartments grow with them. Cities expand from just a small city centre to city outskirts to ‘Greater’ cities and with it they take away the animal habitat bit by bit but at an alarming rate globally.
I was also listening to Damien Rice in those times and there’s a song by him called, ‘The Animals were Gone’ in which he says, “Woke up and for the first time, and the animals were gone.” I think he meant that after the loss of his loved one he got so depressed, and was leading such a depressing life that even the givers of unconditional love, the dogs and the other pets had also left. Kind of like how city life is nowadays. Depression is one of the most common diseases in the 20’s, but I think it has been covered enough, let’s not go there.
Think about this, what do animals do? They are born, they eat, reproduce, and eventually die. They do no harm at all to Earth because of one simple reason that all animals seem to understand pretty well: The Earth is our home and you do not destroy your own home. A bird does not peck at the branch it’s sitting on.
The most common aspect of urbanization is Multi-National Companies (MNCs) establishing their huge offices around cities, taking up natural animal habitat and converting them to build fancy offices and residential campuses. Think about it, you are taking someone else’s home to build your own. In a Human v/s Human case, this would be a lawsuit! Unfortunately, animals do not get a say in this. They are simple beings, who adapt and adjust and if they can’t they either move to a different place or die, the latter being more likely.
Sam Hardman, a PhD in Behavioural Ecologist explains in his blog:-
“Sadly, it is often the case that urbanization causes biodiversity to decline. As cities grow vital habitat is destroyed or fragmented into patches not big enough to support complex ecological communities.
In the United Kingdom for example, an increasing human population density, and the resulting increase in urban development were found to be the cause of 35% of scarce plant species extinctions in the counties surrounding urbanized areas.
Similarly, in the United States urbanization has been found to be directly responsible for the endangerment of 275 species, only invasion by non-native species had a greater impact causing 305 species to become endangered. ”
Urban stressors like air pollution due to traffic and dust, can have unexpected effects on free living animals (humans including). Delhi, the Indian capital, is under serious troubles where doctors have declared a pollution emergency. Most dangerous to health are concentrations of fine pollutants smaller than 2.5 micro-metres, called PM2.5 – tiny enough to evade the body’s natural filters and permeate the blood-brain barrier . PM2.5 levels on 7th November 2017 were 50 times the London average and 11 times the World Health Organisation’s safe limits .
If something is not done soon, the future of animals and humans alike does not look good. It is of urgent need to filter the environment and save the precious endangered species. Despite efforts by organisations that work for these animals in some of the most extreme places on Earth, we still have a long way to go.
Create the space
While the population cannot be controlled and the need for human habitat will keep increasing, we can start looking at modern ways to live harmoniously with animals.
Take the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore for example. It is a nature park spanning 101 hectares (250 acres). It showcases how modern architecture can be used to create a symbiotic relationship with nature. The towers show how solar powered energy can be used to power surrounding areas while providing sunlight to the adjacent flora too. What the authorities found after a few years of building this nature reserve is that the animals which were close to extinction started to return to these parks to continue living their normal life. Plant life flourished too due to a nutrient rich atmosphere.
Another modern example of this relationship is showcased in residential structures in Milan. The flats are built with balconies extending outside the boundaries of the building to support the growth of the planted trees. This creates an oxygen rich atmosphere in the residential space and at the same time helps the environment and the dependent fauna (birds, insects, & micro-organisms).
China is planning to follow suit with the same architect, Stefano Boeri, building twin towers which will hold offices, a 247-room luxury hotel, a museum and even a green architecture school, and are currently under construction, set for completion next year . When he imagines China in 2020 he sees green, a lot of it.
The animals will come
At the end of the Planet Earth episode, the narrator says, ‘Create the space and the animals will come’. This works in both analogies, so if you’re depressed the change has to come within, start working on creating an environment suitable for happiness to come and it will. These modern residential spaces show there is hope for these smog covered cities and Earth overall. Humans are intrinsically animals and it’s high time we learnt how to live harmoniously with other species.