A Way for People and Nature to Coexist

Naturescaping is one way to describe the strategy of creating or improving a “natural” ecosystem in a developed area. An ecosystem is all the living things and the environment supporting them in a defined location. An ecosystem can be tiny, like a handful of soil with its billions of microbes, or vast like the prairies. The ecosystems we create as guerrilla gardeners are typically on the level of a small site, such as a city lot.

Naturescaping sounds elaborate, but it can be a surprisingly simple move. Put a single wild lilac (ceanothus) in a pot in a parking lot, and it may come to support an entire lifecycle of butterflies from larvae to adulthood and even bring in some hummingbirds along the way. Or you can get more involved. Rent a jackhammer and you could convert the parking lot into a forest, choosing your plants carefully for the canopy layer, middle layer of small trees and tall shrubs, and groundcover flowers, grasses and more, all to maximize the amount and variety of living things the space might support.

In either case the most obvious beneficiaries are, for once, not humans but the rest of the living world. This suggests a return to a time when we lived more harmoniously with the biosphere, if not by design then by the fact that we were originally tree and grassland dwellers and later farm people who had to understand the operating systems for the land in order to survive on it. But it’s really a step toward the future, because cities one day will be places where the landscape best reflects our collective values, and these values will no longer be about the domination, exploitation and abuse of the earth but the appreciation and improvement of it.

All of which benefits us, of course. So we win both in the short term (since we get to enjoy these pretty places) and in the long term because we increase the chances that our offspring will be able to enjoy them as well. 


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