What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen???!

Many of us have already spoken to our time with Oliver Kellhammer… and alas I am going to, too. We can’t help it. We were all inspired! Thank you, Oliver.

tennis forest
Nature re-establishing itself on top of an abandoned tennis court

“What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen?” Oliver asked us. He meant this about people—what can we create, how can we explore and learn, when we are given a space to experiment? An example he gave was Tempelhofer Feld, the abandoned airport, where some German men who like the sun built a reflective box to sit in. Also the commons in Vancouver that function as a park but also an art project, where people are welcome to be creative and do what they want. Oliver showed us a picture of a funky sculpture. “What the heck is that?” he said. He didn’t know, but it wouldn’t have existed if there hadn’t been a space like that for it to exist, and that was enough for him. He mentioned that we need to create autonomous zones within capitalism, places where people can be left to do their own thing.

This makes me think of nature too! What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen? Oliver took us out to see an example: the 30-year-abandoned tennis court on the property neighbouring his. Over time, nature moved in. Dirt covered the asphalt and trees began to grow.

oliver scraping
Oliver scraping away dirt to reveal the asphalt beneath. After 30+ years, it’s now begun to crumble and break down. “There’s always something that’s going to come eat up the shit you do,” he says.

In the face of climate change, it’s easy to be discouraged by the loss of how things used to be, a big one being the loss of native ecosystems. But I hear these words again, What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen? Oliver told us about pheasants living in urban environments, and how they’ve become more hearty and resilient than pheasants in rural settings. Or the fisher, the “weasel from hell,” and how it has reappeared and is thriving in abandoned industrial sites. “Invasive” species moving in and proving to be better suited for the climate trajectory of the future than the native species currently being valorized and prized above them. Nature cropping up in places we thought it couldn’t anymore, where it’s able to experiment and do its own thing.

Animals don’t stay the same; everything in nature is adapting. What can happen when crazy things are allowed to happen? This! This world! It’s allowing crazy things to happen! Who would have thunk that an abandoned airport could become a bird sanctuary? That a forest could begin to grow on top of an asphalt tennis court? The anthropocene is a crazy thing that we’ve (unfortunately) allowed to happen, but in a way, it is giving nature a space to experiment and get creative. But nature has always been creative; and it’s where we humans get our own creativity.

Though climate change is distressing, it’s keeping us on our toes. And all the best people, and all the best parts of nature (which is all of it, really) are turning it around and using it as a way to make crazy things happen.

tennis edges
Ferns lining the edge of the tennis court

And I think about permaculture in all of this, how it’s all about mimicking relationships found in natural ecologies and using patterns in nature when problem solving and designing. And I have hope that the craziest thing of all will happen—we will find a way to remediate what we’ve done to the earth, even if not in the way we might expect. Nature is getting super crazy and creative as it looks to adapt to the changing world, and maybe we need to look more closely at these patterns, ones that perhaps we used to view as unfortunate fingers pointing out all we’ve done to harm the earth. Instead, we can learn from them… the problem is the solution after all.


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