Sorghum and bright spray-green dairy-cow pasture, stretch into the long undulating horizon of southern Uruguay. The landscape, like so many cities, could be transplanted across the world. Sometimes I look and I see East Devon, UK, other times parts of Holland, New Zealand, Southern Africa, Chile. Just as we have homogenised ourselves, so we are homogenising our urban and natural environments.
Cities are of course the sharpest examples of this. Stumbling into a new city, the same shops, advertisements, pigeons, building and sullen faces stare back at you. As we all strive for the same wealth, health, safety, ‘quality of life’ we seem to be losing the essence of life.
I find it desperately sad that the Selk’nam and Chonos people of Patagonian are mere legends, shadows amongst the temperate forests of their birth; that the Warao people of the Orinoco Delta would prefer a TV, batteries, nail varnish and outboard engine to their independence and the ancient knowledge of their forests.
Although the loss of wild species may not tug people’s heart strings as strongly, for me it is tragic. To catch sight of a jaguar, a line of leaf cutter ants or a paradise tanager; to ogle at two fish eagles with talons locked flipping in the sky or a cave snake blindly snatching at passing bats, these are moments you never forget. Moments that saturate life with life. As we lose habitats so we lose our ability to be surprised and amazed by the sheer diversity and variety of this crazy life.
In our current small world, a chocolate river and a scrubby small holding is our main connection with the wilds. Yet this little pocket, this backwater of grassland, wetland, flashes, scrubs and clusters of trees heaves with life. A myriad of habitats battle side by side providing a host of niches for flashing beetles, flashy butterflies, cackling woodpeckers, storks, ibises, caracaras; as we run the track, the world at our side practically erupts.
But turn the corner, run up the hill and a couple of miles further; the landscape reverts to the new norm; a monoculture unfurls stretches on either side of our road. Our run is silent.
I know which world I prefer.