By Jaliliah Williams
There’s a lot to be said about the beauty of the forest. The way everything seems to fit in place and flow within everything else. Nature is serene and peacefully quiet. It was effortlessly graceful, effortlessly beautiful. It seems as though every love song and poem revolves around the juxtaposition of beauty between the subject and nature. I mean, who can’t deny the absolute splendor a sunset? The effects of being around something like nature have also been documented; the longer you stay outside, the less stressed you are. And less stressed did I feel, because when I was young, the woods were my safe space.
I was an adventurous little girl. I would get a plastic spoon and bucket to dig around the trunks of trees for worms. After I’d find one, I’d run around the playground scaring the other kids with the little wormies. Some joined in, getting the same amount of mud under their fingernails. It was a grand time, for some of us at least. As I got older my interest in nature only grew, leading me to go camping. I would spend days outside in the wilderness, absorbing the world around me. Sometimes startled at the occasional yelp or hoot, most times enthralled by the opaque silence of it all. It was a lot different to my home, a place where the air is as opaque as the noise. Where natural safe spaces were almost non-existent, especially in the lower-income areas. And where there were as many stressed people as there were bricks in the pavement.
It was my jungle, and a lot of other people’s jungle too. There were terrible predators looking to chomp down on you any chance they got. You had scavengers that would pick away at your things. There was a distinct food chain we all seemed to adhere to, but also secretly tried to rebel against or resented. The city was just as scarily beautiful as the forest. With beautiful, colorful birds of paradise and scowling vultures dressed in black and white suits. It was just like a forest, except the air was thicker, the lights were brighter and the noise … Boy, is it loud. There was no squawk, no howl to compare to the sound of a construction site. And there was nowhere to go to escape the chaos of it all. In the city, there are no places devoid of car horns, police sirens, smog and jackhammers. And those of us who couldn’t afford to spend their time or their money to go away suffered the pollution most.
We need to ensure the protection of vulnerable people in the concrete jungle just as vulnerable inhabitants of the green jungle. Unlike the regular forest, I can’t leave any time I want. I can escape the reaches of a forest. But civilization is a little different. I can’t leave the vultures or the lions, I am a part of a moving machine. The machine is loud. And not many of us, especially those who find ourselves preyed upon most. Usually those of us, in the lower echelons of the concrete food chain, don’t have proper protections from noise pollution. But with the progression of science and environmental awareness, poorer, underserved communities are gaining the strength we need to claim our safe spaces. From San Diego to Allentown, regular everyday people like us are creating refuges to escape the pollution. These refuges connect us to what we often go without; stress-free silence, nature, or just some grass to lay on and a well-deserved nap. Not everything in a concrete jungle needs to be concrete. We will continue to build these spaces for our communities in mind. Equitable, safe spaces where little kids can go bug hunting with their plastic spoons and fall in love with nature.