One of my favourite ideas from Buckminster Fuller is that designing basic improvements to the way people live (especially in terms of the ratio of quality of life versus efficient use of resources) is a much easier a way to gradually approach utopia, than legislating improvements to human character by state-force – the vain struggle of so many misguided maniacs, over the years.
But there’s another idea which has gained new popularity again recently, which not only links beautifully with that one, but was another of Bucky’s regular touchstones. For all of our cleverness, replicating the full power and resilience of natural systems is yet beyond us.
Which means the very best we can do, when it comes to design, is revert to something much more along nature’s own plan, than our vain attempts to groom and ultimately subdue it’s full rich variation and vitality.
Split-Rail Paradise (top photo)
This butterfly garden, on the lakefront, just to the west of the Palais Royale, is a small example of exquisite human and natural designs combined.
They planted the garden with a whole range of native species selected to best nourish migrating butterflies. They also planted it with large flat-top rocks, upon which you can walk through the garden, without disturbing the plants, (and no need for interior fencing). Kids and adults alike were having great fun enjoying the many meandering routes through the contained but resplendent garden. Optimal photo access, too!
I saw so many monarchs flying so close over my head that several times, I felt that spooky eagle-shadow effect – when a bird of prey blocks out your sun – just from their lovely and very-near swooping wingspread!
But they are not at all easy buggers to photograph – inevitably folding their wings up for a far less decorative rest, just when you’ve got your focus perfected!
Here is one small bit of pretty proof I managed to catch – yes, they most definitely like the place!
The bees were also having a grand day – so much pollen everywhere! Some were rolling around in it like they were getting a buzz, some were acting a lot more finicky, working around the edges from side-petals, as if they didn’t want to get their middle legs dirty, if they could help it.
This one got stuck right in, working away steadily – better busy than bored!
This small landing and nourishment patch is a few kilometres away from the butterfly garden – but that’s one of the best things about these developments, they are starting to spread more and more widely, making nature look normal, for many downtown people who have never before seen it this green – in this long neglected part of the waterfront especially (south Parkdale).
One piece at a time
Here’s another patch of natural growth by the lake – backed by a roaring expressway, up the hill, but an entirely positive step, all the same.
The mouths of the Humber and Rouge are already lovely nature preserves – and even the progress along the Don, which remains most constrained by it’s industrial setting, is inspiring. It’s not a sewer anymore – a real river again!
(If you haven’t been for awhile, Evergreen brickworks is now a fantastic spot from which to start a lovely nature hike – right in the centre of the city.)
James Lovelock bitterly regrets using the name ‘Gaia’ for his scientific hypothesis (William Goldman suggested it to him). To this day, huge numbers of people insist on misunderstanding his ideas in romantic terms.
The fact that these romantic simplifications can be easily refuted, is taken as proof by some clever idiots, that the whole thing is nonsense.
What it actually is, is a very intelligent and nicely considered answer to the question – why are all the similar planets in the solar system dead?
You are looking at a representative of the reason, right here – and as unbelievably stupid as we humans continue to be, the ambition represented in it’s growth and persistence – like the whole tree of life from highest animals to the simplest biota, continues to fight back against us – to keep us alive.
Might be worth getting on the right side of that one, eventually – actively helping natural vital processes. In the meantime, every chance we find to let nature loose and get out of it’s way gives us one tick longer on the clock, buying us time to smarten-up and appreciate the lovely garden we keep ignoring, destroying, and then missing terribly, deep in our mythic souls.