Dustin Bajer, Nature is a verb, Ecological Succession. A graph of ecological succession.

Nature Is A Verb – Your Parking Spot Wants To Be A Forest

Nature Is A Verb

Imagine a parking lot: hot, grey, dry, and dead. Parking lots are uninteresting, uninviting, and inhospitable to life. And they are turning into forests. Nature is a verb.

Even the most meticulously paved asphalt has imperfections. Expanding and contracting with the rise and fall of the sun, asphalt forms cracks. It’s even worse in colder climates, as water settles into imperfections, freezes, and wedges rock and bitumen apart. Cracks spread, creating a lip for dust, dirt, and debris to cling to. Pebbles fall between fissures ensuring they never heal. Rotting leaves dance across the lot in whorls and stops, getting caught on the edge of cracks and turning into soil.

This process repeats.

Wind carries tiny seeds that find pockets of soil, germinate, and sprout above the asphalt in fountains of life. Their bodies create more surface on which dust, soil, and seeds can gather. With the help of ancient captive bacteria, plants synthesize sunlight into sugars. Their roots infiltrate the asphalt and decay onto columns of soil at the end of the season.

This process repeats.

More plants grow, and some manage to set flowers. Insects visit and leave drunk on nectar. Birds leave drunk on insects. Defecating on thin soil, they leave the seeds of fruiting trees and shrubs. Most seeds don’t make it and turn into soil. Some germinate.

This process repeats.

Cracks grow, and soil accumulates. Perennial grasses start to outnumber annual pioneers. Woody shrubs start outnumbering grasses. Growth and decay, life colonizes non-life. Even death creates opportunities.

This process repeats.

Leaves and soil hide the bare rock and harvest water. Small shrubs succeed to large ones, which succeed to trees. The parking lot is inviting, and life walks, crawls, and flies in to take advantage. Nests and burrows are constructed, plants are grazed, and animals bed down for rest, shade, and shelter.

This process repeats.

Imagine a parking lot: cool, green, humid, and alive. A parking lot that is interesting, inviting, and hospitable to life. Imagine a forest.

This process repeats.

Dustin Bajer, Nature is a verb, Ecological Succession. A graph of ecological succession.
Nature Is A Verb

What is Nature?

Nature moves from simple to complex, from fragile to antifragile, from few to many. Nature is a verb. It’s what Paul Krafel, in his book ‘Seeing Nature‘ calls the upward spiral. It’s what Stuart Kauffman calls The Adjacent Possible. Nature creates conditions conducive to nature. The goal of nature is to explore every possability space by reassembling its creations into new creations. Nature is playing an infinite game.

Trees, shrubs, water, birds, cracks, asphalt, parks, silicon chips, miliaria, bacteria, cities, and giant sakoyas are not nature but products of nature. They are artifacts of nature. They are not nature, but they are natural. Nature predates biology and extends beyond it. Nature created the conditions necessary for biology and used biology to create the conditions for language, culture, technology, and cities. These, too, are artifacts of nature. What will they create?

Dustin Bajer, The Succession of Cities. Do cities move through a form of succession from simple to complex?
Dustin Bajer, The Succession of Cities. Do cities move through a form of succession from simple to complex?

What Will We Create?

Where do we fit in this vision of nature? As an artifact of nature, what’s our obligation to the creative force that assembled us? At the risk of getting metaphysical, as nature, it is our responsibility to do nature. That is, to create – to contribute to the upward spiral of complexity and opportunity that started at least 13 billion years ago.

So spiral forth and play the infinite game in whatever way you’re best positioned. For me, this means growing river valley food forests, building beekeeping and tree-growing communities, and plotting the next 1000 years.


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