One might think I've referenced the zoo because we've had a fuller house recently - N and S are home (hooray!), old high school friends are stopping by, back from school; a nephew was here for a few days. Or maybe you think the zoo reference is about three dogs tinged by skunk milling about the house. Both good possibilities, but not my thought for the day.
I have been thinking once again about our human disconnection from the natural world. Taking a daily walk in an increasingly lush landscape, overgrown with the relentless emergence of life, I cannot help coming back to it. That is the world that gave birth to our human nature, the one we were designed for, and we don't really know it that well any more.
All of these buildings, and cities, and bunkers, and walled communities of one sort or another are just so many forms of cages. Some cages are stark, sterile, and barren. Those lead to poor resident health - both mental and physical. Some of our cages are pretty fancy, with an attempt to create a natural habitat for improved well-being. The lucky residents of those zoo environments are better off. Either way, though, we have put ourselves in a zoo.
I read about zoo habitats on an American Veterinary Medical Association website. In the 1970's we moved from the stark, tiled wall enclosures to more natural habitats that would be more "hospitable and stimulating." "Although this approach worked well," reported a zoo design specialist, "it did not stop animals from growing bored with their environment. Boredom can have harmful effects..."
There is increasing evidence, the report goes on, that behavioral and physical problems can grow out of "a lack of physical activity and inhospitable habitats," which includes lack of choice, variety, and novelty. A pretty setting, in other words, is not enough. The animals need to be challenged, need to have responsibilities to take care of themselves - forage for food, create a shelter, wander around and find good company. "Rotating habitats" are one new innovation. Animals get to move around, travel, if you will, between environments throughout the day.
I can't help feeling that what we have created is just one big zoo, with habitats that are all too often unstimulating and unhealthy - disconnected from the world that we were made for. Perhaps battling for the shortest line at the grocery store could be construed as competition for food, but I don't think it's really quite the same thing.
I'm afraid that the vast majority of human specimens would not survive a reintroduction into the wild. We are mostly bound to continue living in the zoo of our own creation.
Might as well enjoy this lovely habitat.