Any conversation about preserving wild creatures or plants inevitably includes thoughts about habitat. Nothing exists in isolation, and if the ecosystem, the landscape and the relationships are not preserved, the ‘special’ creature of interest will not thrive. Nothing thrives.
Somehow in the midst of this, we’ve taken to thinking of habitat as something other. Somewhere else. Where the birds and creatures live. We forget that we too are creatures. We are not separate from the ecosystems.
We’ve been creating our own habitats for so long, that the idea of a natural habitat for humans, at first glance, seems weird, if not irrelevant. By our very natures, we do not have natural habitats, right? Wrong. All the things that harm creatures, harm us because we are creatures too. Pollution, excess of noise, too much light at night, loss of green spaces, loss of freedom. We do not thrive in depressing, grimy, polluted places. Mental and physical health are improved by time outside, time with trees.
We’re so used to our nests and caves that we don’t think enough about the habitat we need for human wellbeing. It has open water in it. So many people love streams, rivers, canals and the sea. We gravitate towards lakes. We need water that we can walk or sit beside. We need grass to sit upon and trees to sit under. We depend on the land for food, even if most of us don’t see that on a daily basis.
If we created our urban spaces with an eye not for immediate profit and commercial intent, but to make good habitats for humans, life would be so different. I’ve seen spaces that made me feel it could be done – the beautiful, vibrant space that is The Custard Factory in Birmingham, or the area there around Gas Street Basin. Public spaces, people, trees, buildings, no two things identical.
We shouldn’t be talking about preserving the habitats of this or that creature, as though we are doing them a favour. This is our habitat too. Even if we can’t find the empathy to care about anything else, we ought to care enough about ourselves to maintain spaces we can thrive in, rather than places that engender depression, starve our souls, and make our bodies ill.