Monday, November 20, 2006

 

Urban rhythms 3: nature

See here for introduction to the urban rhythms series.

Many rural forms of community were, and still are based on rhythms directly associated with nature: Crops were sowed, harvested and stored according to season whilst sleep, waking and working were defined by the setting and rising of the sun. Nature was a clock that could be used to order and regulate activity. Similarly our bodies are programmed with circadian rhythms reset each day by exposure to light. A whole poetry and spirituality has been developed which is based on natural surroundings and a rural way of life.

With the introduction of mechanical clocks we began to rely less upon natural cycles. Clocks switched from local time to global time. The introduction of technologies such as lighting, heating and air conditioning exaggerated this further: It became possible to light a room at any time of day and maintain it at the same temperature regardless of season. We were free to pursue our own rhythms, assuming we had the energy to maintain them. Urbanisation brought jobs indoors, in factories and offices, distancing us from the ’land’ and its associated eco-systems.

In the middle of a city our horizon is restricted, we cannot see the vault of the sky, instead it is viewed in a restricted gap between buildings or from a high rooftop. The stars are almost impossible to see, we anticipate the weather from the forecast on the television and understand nature from a David Attenborough programme. Instead we live by urban rhythms: our day is set by the alarm clock, noisy neighbours, commuting schedules, shift systems, opening hours of shops. We live in a twenty four hour environment. A walk through the city at 5am reveals a whole other world of things happening; the bakery preparing from the coming day, a casualty department working through the night, delivery vans and security guards. The awe and wonder we might previously have found in nature is replaced by TV, film, music, art and ‘iconic’ buildings.

Glimmers of new sorts of poetry and spirituality might emerge: city honey is richer than rural honey. Fields in the countryside have been intensively farmed with mono-crops such that bees here take their pollen from a limited number sources. City bees, by comparison, have a plethora of individual back gardens to choose from and thousands of different species of plant from which to collect their pollen resulting in healthier bees and richer, superior honey.

presence | acceptance | balance | creativity | accountability | hospitality

image: BBC weather
tags: rhythm of life, moot, London, urban, urban rhythms, nature



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