Anthropo-scene #4: Longing for Nature

Christian
September 13th 2013

Nature, anybody? Heidelberger Platz is one of the more brutal urban spaces in Berlin. It is torn apart by the city highway and train lines. The few buildings that surround it look pretty ugly. There's no feeling of a social fabric here, just a constant flow of people moving through. The whole experience of being here is pretty filthy. Except for the animals. Here they are, a dolphin and a turtle swimming in bright blue water, a happy chick and a healthy-looking ice bear, plastered on the walls of a drive-thru car wash under the highway bridge. The owners of the car wash could show race cars here or pictures of sexy women, but no: people get to see a pictorial zoo. An optimistic reading of this bizarre sight is that it exploits an in-built human longing for being in and with nature. If we feel happy hanging out with dolphins even in our car washes, humans will surely look after the well-being of Earth in the Anthropocene? The pessimistic reading goes like this: we're fed Orwellian images of an abstract natural purity so we get distracted from how ugly human-made spaces can be. Either way, Nature is here to stay.

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