It’s a bizarre concept, really. The idea of large natural parks smack dab in the middle of large cities. But I guess no one put them there, but rather we’ve built up around them. Nature is defined as “the natural world as it exists without human beings or civilization.” When people talk about “nature” the first thing that generally comes to mind is picturesque landscapes fit for calendars and desktop backgrounds. A Google image search of the word nature returns over 3,290,000,000 results of too good to be true photos of waterfalls, canyons, mountains, palm trees and lagoons. Each of these landscapes seems to be a snapshot of some distant natural beauty that is somewhere far away from industrialization. Not one image hints at the idea of human interference. The message these pictures convey is that nature exists only completely disconnected from human life and civilization. Similarly, a common first thought response to the world “wildlife” is visions of large animals roaming jungles and deserts and forests, in deep unpopulated areas. I’ll admit that I definitely perceived nature this way for a good amount of time. Recently, however, I’ve adopted a new idea. Obviously influenced by living in the Bronx and having to re-adjust to the concept of nature, I think I’ve developed a greater appreciation of it. Van Cortlandt Park, spanning over 1,146-acres and ranking as the fourth largest park in New York City sits right next to me. In New York, it boasts one of the highest rates of rare plant species and is home to wildlife not seen many other places in the city. On paper in comparison to many of our countries national parks and wildlife conservancies, it is an unimpressive blip in the guide book. But I’ll argue that picture perfect landscapes in the middle of nowhere have less to prove than a deeply nature rich park competing with the urban spectacle of one of the biggest cities in the world. I think it’s the stark contrast that allows for a deeper...
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