Anyone from Vancouver, or anywhere in Canada for that matter, has probably encountered urban wildlife at some point. From masked bandit raccoons to pesky coyotes, it’s almost as if they are invading human territory and we’ve forgotten that this land was once the kingdom animalia.
When we think of nature now, do we think of a grassy landscape with a rapid river running through? Some form of wildlife, like a grizzly bear? What about bustling downtown Vancouver? Alright, it’s unlikely you were thinking downtown Vancouver, but it wasn’t too long ago that the black pavement and hum of electricity was instead run by the rules of the wild. What if the city were able to catch a glimpse of those days? This is what that author J.B. Mackinnon portrays within his book The Once and Future World, and what the crafty curators at the Museum of Vancouver have expertly displayed in their new “Rewilding Vancouver” exhibit. The installation is part art, part sci-fi alternate reality scenario, part environmental activism and definitely a tongue-in-cheek exploration of urbanism in the mighty northwest.
To rewild a landscape is to restore that area of land to its natural unexploited state. By doing this, there may be a resurgence of locally extinct species, and an increased connection between humans and nature.
As time progresses, man’s understanding of a natural baseline shifts. For example, those born today will grow up in a world where climate change is normal, whereas an older generation perceives it to be a terrifying anomaly. Practically any Vancouverite would believe that Broadway and Cambie is a busy intersection. However, those alive just 100 years ago would argue that that same spot is a river so heavily populated in fish that you could figuratively walk across the backs of salmon to the other side and go fishing with a pitchfork.
Humans have become so disconnected from nature that it is more likely to witness an amazing natural event on YouTube than witness it in real life. A creatively utopian solution to the rapidly deteriorating natural landscape is for humans to rewild the planet: enhance the natural world in our own backyard. It is here that the exhibit ends and leaves the main take-home message: if we do not learn to coexist with nature, we may not exist at all.
In J.B. Mackinnon’s words: “It might be possible for seven billion people, maybe even more, to survive on this planet. And not only long enough to stop the decline of the natural world, but watch it return to astounding perpetual life, all it will take is a wilder way of being human.”
Rewilding Vancouver: Remember. Reconnect. Rewild. runs at the Museum of Vancouver until September 1st.
By Courtney Smaha