Humans are a funny species, aren’t they? Whether you are looking for love, money, life or just cabins in canada, we are always searching for something more. Places, idea. It doesn’t quite matter. You can find equal intelligence and high levels of emotion in an rv campground or at the top of a skyscraper. But where did all of this emotion and beauty come from? There’s no doubt that humans are as tragic as they are beautiful but how did all of this come about? There are a lot of answers, of course, as many as there are words in every language in the world but, for the purposes of writing this, I want to focus on just one. I want to focus on humanity’s connection to the landscapes that surround them. We often take the wild world for granted but it’s always been there, right within us. It sneaks into what we eat and feel, into what we believe and what we see. The wild world is all we have, really, even if we feel otherwise. There is only the wild world and what it deigns to tell us. This isn’t an accident either or something we can escape. It has always been this way, in all places and all times. And it all starts at a very specific place on the globe.
- The very first human landscapes
There used to be many branches of the human tree. Our species, homo sapiens, was only one of many. Not many people know this outside of academia but we used to share our lands, such as they were, with many other different types of humans who were all developing with us. The question of what happened to them all isn’t quite answered but the theories are less than pleasant. Extinction or out competition. Disease or war. Well, whoever they were, they left the stage in the middle of our story and left only us, homo sapiens, to eventually create and build cabins in north carolina and skyscrapers in Beijing, to harness horses and build the atomb bomb. But, when all of this started, where were we? What locations, specifically, on Earth? There’s pretty much no more important question if we are considering how we developed in relation to how we treat the landscapes around us. Well the answer to how we developed in relation to the landscape can only be looked at within the confines of the very first landscapes we developed within. There is some contention about this in the anthropological and social science fields but the commonly held theory is that we first emerged in grasslands in east Africa a couple million years ago. To be more specific, these early peoples were the first species that could be said to have posture and capability approaching that of modern homo sapiens.
The ways of the Savanna
Imagine it. The savannah is very different than the forest. It’s open all the way, with many ridges and rocks and places to hide. These creatures hid in long grass and lived in small villages and bands. They never stayed in one place for long. They continued to move all the time to avoid predators and to forage. They were, above all else, fond of the open spaces and the horizon. They were always roving towards it, to get to a better place with more food and more water. We have no fondness for darkness and enclosed spaces like other animals. Bright sunny days, with warm nights, are our favorite.
How we grew to feel
We left those savannas eventually, for other places and other landscapes. We learned to live in forests and near mountains, we learned to harness rivers and cross oceans. We learned to do all of these things but they weren’t places we felt most comfortable. We retained a fondness for warmth and wide open spaces and strove to make other places feel that way as well. Though we choose to live in so many places, we all feel that pull deep down. We are creatures of the open world and we always will feel that pull.