a Disaster Unfolds Unanswered! — and how Pope Francis has startled the world
Today we are living in the midst of The Big Metropolitan Boom – which means that two-thirds of humanity’s seven billion people will soon be living (by 2030) in cities that are mostly walled-off from the natural world… It’s a growing disconnect between Nature and People! And the rate is quickening, as 2.5 billion more people will be added to the world’s cities by as early as 2050.
Material or Spiritual? In the last three centuries people have been flocking into cities because they see them offering closeness to services, jobs, friends, entertainment. Material attractions. Whereas when people consider Nature, they profess spiritual feelings about the wonders of flora and fauna, the variety of landforms, the surprise and beauty of so much, and the everlasting glory of sun, moon, stars. Some will seek answers in a creative and compassionate god or gods, and they will elevate these values above the material.
A hell of a CHOICE faces us! Because the twin forces of population-explosion and city-proliferation are now so clear and so threatening, humanity can’t continue to stumble on mindlessly towards irremediable crisis and possible catastrophe. What a problem! No easy answer! We decided to appeal it to leading ecologist and ex-park ranger Bob Crombie who has often warned of it and specifically of its threat to the Royal National Park which he knows so well.
Bob said, “On a recent trip to countries with problems similar to ours, I met in Scotland a fascinating man nicknamed Paul the Feraliser, who campaigns for the rewildering of his country, especially by extending the fertility of its parks, reserves and private and commercial holdings. Paul explained that “feral” comes from ancient Gaelic fer meaning “grass” and later “wild” or “untamed”; and it now implies that we must end the notion that humanity (in cities) is separate from nature and is out to dominate nature. Instead, he says, we must realise we are part of nature and must work with nature to enhance the living world.
Better to “bewilder” than to “feralise”. Bob believes that the term “bewilder” suits the big Australian continent better than Paul’s “feralise”. Bewilder too is an ancient term meaning to become connected to life, to be charmed by nature as Spirit, God, Natura and to be wholeheartedly immersed in this, so that it includes “making wildness”, with people and the wild things living together. He adds, “No one needs this more than our children – they are born naturalists, with senses that can be open to the world around them, to mother and family, to flowers and the mysteries of life. How worrying then is the present collapsing of children’s engagement with nature, a collapse that I feel most strongly in relation to Royal National Park”.
The Royal vital to childhood. “We are so fortunate to have the Royal. It is a treasure and is known to be such by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) which rates it as one of the world’s great urban parks, wholly within Sydney and Wollongong.” “Royal”, says Bob, “was vital to my childhood. Its wildness is a voice that never stops whispering to me, haunting my imagination. It teaches a thousand lessons that words can’t capture. My ‘Nasho’ is my great library, and its books are the flowers, trees, rocks, streams and landforms that speak in quiet voices whenever I have moments to listen. Above all it teaches me to wonder, to reverence life and the universe. Then I ask myself how I can do more to promote bewildering, not only in national parks but also in backyards, towns, cities, farms and commercial areas.”
Urgent words from Pope Francis. Suddenly and unexpectedly as this column is in the writing comes the Pope’s “clarion call to all global leaders to give stronger leadership on climate change” (reported by SMH, 20-21.6.15). Which, says one commentator, “will have a significant impact because the Pope is a person of enormous influence”.