Yes, spotting wild elephants on a mountainside is exciting. Agreed, a field full of flowers that blooms once every dozen years is a heart-warming sight. But not everyone who loves and appreciates nature has the time or money to travel to places where such phenomena can be experienced. Many people who live in cities – myself included – complain about not being able to connect with nature the way they would if they weren’t urbanites. However, I recently had an eye-opening (or re-eye-opening, rather) experience in Chennai, a city proportionally larger and less vegetated than Cochin, where I live, which showed me that nature is never far away.
What people forget all too frequently is that animals and even plants adapt, even when removed from their natural environments. Ants establish colonies in human homes, which in the evolutionary scheme of things are brand spanking new. Although we consider most of the ‘wildlife’ we find in our homes to be pests, if we were to find them in what we think of as their natural environment we might be fascinated by their colors, forms and behaviors. I watch with dismay as ants industriously pick up crumbs from my nightstand, whereas in a park I will observe, fascinated as a swarm of ants decimates a spider that tread the wrong hill. For a consistent and routine urbanatural activity, you might enjoy cataloging all the different species of plants growing without human interference in the city. To me, this sounds about as exciting as counting rocks, but then again… one word: geologists.
For the budding urbanaturalist, I recommend “bug-watching”. Few things are more interesting than watching insects performing their daily rituals, committing bite-sized, heinous crimes of survivalism. The behavior of just about any living creature is capable of fascinating – you just have to be there to see it.