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Encroaching on and Balancing Out Nature

r.graham.barrett's picture

Today’s observation period at my sight sit besides being my last was also the first one that I’ve managed to have for a few weeks. With the weather conditions making the day feel more like it should be in March rather than December, it felt like it was going to be a rather pleasant hour at my bench. Unfortunately though, the visuals that I witnessed at the bench were not as pleasant as the weather. Although the sight of the trees along the nature tree and the pine needles healthily covering the bench were still there, placed right in the middle of the Arboretum field in front of me, was a cleared section of dirt and gravel. Leading from this spot were both a similar dirt and gravel path and a black plastic fence snaking away towards the Nature Trail and apparently extending all the way to Haverford Road. Upon inquiring about the cleared patch later, I found out that the field was being prepared to be turned into a temporary parking lot for the golf tournaments that were to take place on local golf courses during the summertime.

                The presence of a parking lot in the Arboretum that was directly in my line of sight when looking out from the bench was naturally a disappointing visual to behold and something that I wish hadn’t happen even if I was no longer going to visit the sight. Although it was stressed that it was a temporary parking lot and the field was to be returned to its natural landscape, developing the field in such a manner would undoubtedly scar the landscape in such a manner that it would never truly heal. Likewise its presence meant that the isolation that I had grown to love on the bench was bound to be shattered as more construction for the parking lot was bound to bring people and people parking there would increase the amount of people passing by the fence. Besides the newly created parking lot, there was also numerous signs that indicated the proximity of society and how the idea that the bench and the Arboretum are truly isolated from man’s encroachment is a false pretense. I listened to the constant drone of power tools working away on campus and nearby properties, the deafening din of the cars on Haverford Road, see those same cars through the bare trees caught in a traffic jam, and through the trees I could see bulldozers moving about a cleared section of land on the other side of the rail road. Being presented with such sights and sounds, I came to the conclusion that during the early days of the semester, trees of the nature trail and the organisms that populated the area had crafted a cocoon of isolation at the bench. With winter’s onset though, the cocoon had been broken and human encroachment was fully present at the bench, showing that despite appearances the Haverford Nature Trail and Arboretum were in the middle of an urbanized area.

                Despite the terrible visual of the parking lot and the sights and sounds of the surrounding human presence, I did manage to find some enjoyment from the natural qualities of my location. If I turned my gaze not to the parking lot but the nature trail, I was still presented with the leaf-less trees and the pine trees that border the Nature trail and the Trail itself which provide an example of the natural setting I had been hoping for. Likewise, despite the season, there were still signs of life around the bench despite the broken isolation, with squirrels running up trees and across the non-developed portions of the field and bird chirps somehow breaking through the cacophony of manmade noises. With the continual presence of natural phenomenon at my sight despite the intrusion of the parking lot, it appears as though my site could still maintain a balance between its natural qualities and the encroachment of man, to create a location where the natural environment could exist despite it being surrounded by urbanization. But as I got up to leave the bench for the last time of the semester, I couldn’t help but wonder if this balance of natural and man-made visualizations and sounds was truly the balance both myself and the rest of society wants. Although it might seem like modern society is trying to ramify its constant urbanization and restructuring of natural environments and landscapes by creating beautiful locations like the Haverford Arboretum, it really seems like society is just putting asides such locations for the sake of having a beautiful and ideal spot demonstrating “nature”. Such displays though are still surrounded by urbanization that cuts off the natural environment from sites like the bench, as well as still being encroached by civilization by means of concessions like “temporary parking lots”. With these concessions which might balance out man’s encroachment into locations like the Arboretum by retaining a visual beauty then, it becomes apparent that the balance is not the one which should desired. Rather, the balance that should have the most consideration in deciding on whether to intrude on sites like the Arboretum, and maybe even creating the Arboretum itself, should be whether such decisions maintain the ecological balance between the site and the rest of the natural world.