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Our planet is 4.6 billion years old. It has been through violent geological alterations, meteoroid attacks, fiery volcanic eruptions and formation of tectonic plates until 2.5 billion years ago where it grew into it’s current size. Life on the planet dates back to 3.8 billion years ago with the formation of single cellular organisms which evolved into multicellular organisms. The land forms were slowly engulfed by life in the form of plants and trees 475 million years ago changing the planet into the blue-green globe that we recognise today as Earth.
Homo sapiens have walked on this planet for 200,000years which boils down to a mere 0.004% of the life span of Earth. In this insignificant timespan, our species has grown into the most dominating super species, overtaking the entire globe by defining it with our activities. From small settlements along river valleys, our kind has raced forward, evolving into the new kind of species we have become today- the Urban sapiens.
With 7.4 billion humans living in cities, we are completely cut off from our natural habitat. On our relentless journey to global domination, we have managed to force 2 to 3 million other species to change their livelihood to adapt to our new habitat. However not all the species of the plant and animal kingdom have been able to cope with this drastic change and are slowly getting extinct with time. Entire ecosystems are collapsing with this mass conversion, from forests to farms, from farms to sub-urban extensions of over populated cities transforming the biosphere into barren lands with concrete stacks towering over the once bio-rich habitat.
Today mankind laments the exasperating loss of these natural systems, yet as an urban species adapted to his new habitat of concrete jungles and modern technology, he finds it almost impossible to reverse this surge of global urbanization, leaving behind the question of what will happen to the unadapting natural ecosystems? Can we leave them to die silently? Their death will give rise to another natural system, a more hostile one, with dry lands and inedible invasive species which is their answer to our grand design. The emergence of these new systems have awakened our kind to take a stand to protect the dying ecosystems that favoured our survival- giving rise to environmental awareness movements by governing bodies. Conserving the existing forest cover and preserving the unaffected ecosystems was the first step taken up. Protection laws were made against encroachment of these reserves. However, these solutions were retaining the divide between nature and man by increasing the gap between cities and forests. Mankind needed to give nature a chance to win back its lost territory. Bringing nature back into urban spaces but at the same time allowing mankind to re adapt to it was the solution.
In the late 70s, these issues gave prominence to the field of Landscape Architecture as it had the tool to integrate the requirements of urban spaces with the necessity of natural ecosystems. The earlier perspective of landscapes as a mere foreground for houses palaces and monuments seemed to morph into a new idea- where Landscape Architecture, hand in hand with disciplines such as ecology and environmental science became responsible for designing more environmentally conscious cities. In the name of aesthetics, landscape design was slowly weaving into the concretised systems to clean up the toxic pollutants in the land, air and water. The parks and gardens designed under the pretext of human outdoor recreation became key spaces to rebuild and preserve natural systems. Large dumping grounds were transformed into bird and animal sanctuaries using existing garbage as landfills to create these nature reserves thriving with biodiversity. Some landscape designs even reversed the cycle of over-hardscaping by creating porous surfaces for air and water to percolate through. Reflecting in art, architecture and master planning and policy making, landscape has unified man with nature.
Landscape design may not bring back the once thriving forests that existed 475 million years ago but it has created a co-dependent system which connects us to the once forgotten environment that was part of our instinct. This is a small but distinct shift from urbanisation to landscape, environmental and ecological urbanisation.
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