Before this suburb was another suburb, there was a functional ecosystem inhabiting here…
If we’re attentive we can still find traces of that original community sustained in the present day. When the gutters flood, the streets crack and shimmer with summer heat, magpies swoop at us as we pass beneath their nests, spiders set up webs in our gardens, insects drift between the weeds and wildflowers springing up out of cracks in the footpath, and blue tongues emerge from beneath the house to sun themselves on the brick pile, we glimpse persistent ecologies doing their best to continue to survive around that suburban culture that we have introduced.
People and the things we love, desire, fear and ignore are among the most influential forces on the planet at the moment. What we love, profit from or find useful flourishes. What we fear or find distasteful falters and fails. And sometimes, because they are interdependent, the things we love or depend on fail along with the things we disregard, and the things we dislike run amok as we create conditions that allow them to slip their environmental boundaries.
It’s up to us, as the makers and inhabitants of one persistent environment, to ensure that the inhabitants of others have a chance to make spaces of their own in our world. If we don’t make room for them, who will?
Have you ever noticed the creatures clinging stubbornly to the edges? Cared for the currajong’s virtuoso rain-song? Admired the ants shifting their eggs up the wall to avoid a storm? Beheld a blue-banded bee drifting between tiny blossoms? If someone, somewhere loves and is willing to protect, nurture and understand one of these things, they need not fail, and the ecology and scenery around us is enriched as a result.
If you notice a wasted space somewhere, try nudging it back into habitation. It’s a delight to see nature making integrated spaces of its own. A balance between active shaping and non-interference is the key. You can help it along by planting suitable natives or simply refrain from ‘cleaning up’ anything you dislike that manages to establish itself.
Pay attention to where plants are trying to go and simply let them get there. Channel rainwater through bare garden spaces and set up a pond in a place inclined to damp (you can discourage mosquitoes by incorporating white cloud fish from the pet shop). Allow spaces that tend to flood, collect leaves or accumulate soil to do so. Line leaf-trapping corners with stones, bricks or bits of wood. Remember that nature appreciates diversity as much as you do. A little water, a little sun, a little shelter and some different surfaces, and the most unattractive spaces can become self-established ecologies.
We don’t all have to love everything, but where everyone loves something, everything can find a way.
Words: Matthew Moore