A few weeks ago I moved to Los Angeles, California. Land of sprawl, pinnacle of the sprawling sort of development. The exemplary locus for anyone interested in unsustainability.
We packed up our things at the height of Vermont’s greenest green season, with a riot of leaves all around and the humid breath of those verdant hills exhaling upon us. It’s so soothing, the color green that wells up from the tree beings and the ground covered with grasses, the berry beings, the vines. The green expands with the warmer weather and with water, reminding us that yes, it’s all still alive under there, even when it’s frozen solid and still, under feet of snow.
The green comes back gradually, but insistently, even when you aren’t looking. Then there comes an inevitable moment in a busy life spent looking at screens when you suddenly see the tree at the end of your driveway and it is so green. It is somehow glowing with the power of the color you call green in the evening light. You walk right up to it until all you can see are green needles at the ends of branches covered with green needles. Green points catching the sunlight, contrasted with green points in their shadows. Warm green, fragrant green. How do I describe the feeling of seeing that shade? The eyes are physical things, aren’t they? It’s as if they were caught up in a waft of gentle steam, pouring its healing heat over. Green.
Not so in this new desert climate! Not so in the land of sprawl and concrete. In Vermont you see old sugar shacks melting gradually into the forest again, or old apple trees once pruned, now shaggy with unmanaged new growth. Here in Los Angeles you see parking lots, vast expanses of expensively laid concrete and asphalt, these are melting into the wild from disuse! I’ve seen a few, fenced off and crumbling apart at the seams, where tough desert grasses I don’t know the names of have found purchase in a slim vein of soil. So the parking lot grows shaggy and rumpled from the slow action of roots.
It’s one of my favorite sights, this kind of revolution. Grass, a simple algorithm of growth, overtaking the ill-planned and unloved relic of economic activity, be it a parking lot or a restaurant or a sign. Sure, there will always be more parking lots. But there will always be more grass as well!
Is the grass an agent of entropy, or is its slow work, representing the return to some kind of complex ecology evidence of the battle against? And then must you position the economy and its agents on the side of chaos, against the organization of life forces? I guess it depends whose side you’re on, and how long a view you take of the battle.
I think I’m on the side of the grasses.
But that’s definitely grounds for a fertile debate, and worth a lot more thought.