by Dr Shawn Sobers
When we go for walks, we are treading on landscapes tamed by previous generations that have conquered nature. Most walks we go on do not involve chopping through wild jungles or scaling up mountains; they are negotiating spaces already tamed for us but unknown path bearers that have gone before, even when diverting from a prescribed route, and climbing uneven ground.
I started thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when I went on a lovely walk with my sister and our respective children. We walked along a new stretch of cycle path near her house In Bath, which includes the longest cycle tunnel in Britain, which took us 45 mins to walk through. Before this new part of the cycle track was opened, the area was wild and impossible to walk through or access. Now the path has been tamed and opened for the public, (officially launched less than a week before our walk), and the novelty for the community is still fresh, the path was full of people of all ages – leisurely walkers, children on bikes and scooters, parents pushing prams, pensioners walking dogs, everyone out to play in April on one of the first sunny days of the year.
The conquering and taming of nature by previous generations affords us many of the luxuries we enjoy today, and being in a cultural, financial, social and geographical position to be able to go on walks is definitely one of those luxuries. Of course the human conquering of nature is also highly problematic with regards environmental sustainability, and today any new building project will have to take into consideration environmental concerns, and this new cycle track is no different. Some Brazilians will want new shopping malls built whilst others campaign to save the rain forests, which are also people’s homes. In Britain we chopped down most of our forests long ago to make way for cities, and some are trying to hold on the last bits of green remaining in the landscape. With every step we should recognise the sacrifices nature has made to make space to accommodate our feet, and the responsibilities we have to respect that sacrifice.