Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The resiliency of nature -- expressway edition

The three dead pigeons, lying close together on the shoulder of the expressway, didn't faze me, but I was curious. Were they poisoned? They were lying near a railroad overpass. Were they part of a group that was sitting on the tracks? Were these three too slow to move out of the way of an oncoming train?

I had to drive to work this morning and I couldn't help but notice Nature in the least natural of places, to wit, the inbound Kennedy Expressway.

It was the small patch of green in the pavement, no more than a couple of feet long and a few inches wide, erupting through the joint that separates the roadway from the shoulder, that got me thinking along these lines. It wasn't grass, but it was a ground cover of some sort and it was green. Really green.

From then on, I was looking. There were all sorts of spots were plants had taken root -- one plant here or there -- mostly scraggly looking, but alive. I'm no gardener, but these looked like weeds to me. A foot tall or more, some of them, with thin leaves and cone-shaped, purplish flowers on several. Most of these had sprouted underneath the concrete medians, concrete blocks four roughly feet tall that strongly discourage traffic moving one way from drifting into a lane moving in the opposite direction. So there is massive concrete sitting atop a concrete floor -- O wondrous the mighty works of Man -- and, yet, every 100 feet or so, sometimes less, sometimes more, there was another plant pushing through.

Thus, the dead possum on the Ohio feeder ramp, just entering the downtown area, came as no surprise. Why shouldn't there be wild animals (not just rats) anywhere at all? Nature bides her time with us, our human infestation. So many of us think we control her: So many of us believe we can plant mighty cities anywhere we choose, in swamps (like my Chicago) or deserts (Phoenix, Las Vegas). We believe Nature will conform meekly to our desires. Al Gore's disciples are more afraid of Nature, but still they think they -- we humans -- can control her. They think Nature will do our bidding if only we curb CO2 emissions.

But a trip into the City, through one of the least natural landscapes possible, shows that it's more complicated than that. Nature will do what she wants, when she wants, whether we like it or not. Whether we can survive it or not. We can fight, of course, but -- for the foreseeable future -- we must lose. Nature is far too strong. It's too bad we don't have a space program anymore. By our inaction, we have placed all our hopes, all our futures, at the mercy of an oft-capricious Nature. But anyone who has studied history and geology and paleontology, even casually, knows that Mother Nature can be one tough mother at times.

Of her own choosing.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

this reminded me of something that happened when my kids were about 5 and 11. we had an above ground pool then but a really substantial one. went to bed and all was well, got up the next morning and it was mostly empty. there was an 8 ince weed growing in the middle! overnight 8 inches right through the stone, the sand, and the liner! yes, mother nature will have her way when she wants to!

smiles, bee

Dave said...

Well said.

Some four decades ago my family moved "Up North" in Michigan to a very old house out in the country. Across the road, on the far side of a field, there was a very, very old house that had been abandoned years, maybe decades before. I visited my parents' house off and on over the next few decades, each time the old house sagged a bit more. Over time, a couple of small trees grew out from its window frames.

I happened to pass by it year before last. It's a heap of wood. I wonder if I'll be alive when the wood has finally succumbed to the elements.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Roadkill builds up quite a casualty list.

Ellee Seymour said...

We have wild foxes which are now roaming housing estates and getting into homes. There was one case this year of a baby which was badly attacked by a fox while in her cot.
And pigeon poo causes a lot of damage to historic buildings in the UK. I love wildlife too, but I guess it needs to stay in the wild.