As a person who loves spending time outdoors, it was a challenge for me to let go of the notion that the world can be split into places that are “natural” and “wild” vs. “man-made” or “tamed”. This outlook is deeply ingrained into our conceptualization of outdoor spaces, and reified by our interactions with the world¹. Ultimately, it’s based on myth that was circulated to justify genocide.

This article about recently discovered ancient cities from the Casarabe culture reminded me of that.

Archaeologists... argued that the Amazon’s nutrient-poor soil was unable to support large-scale agriculture, and that it would have prevented tropical civilizations — similar to those found in central America and southeast Asia — from arising in the Amazon. By the 2000s, however, archaeological opinion was beginning to shift. Some researchers suggested that unusually high concentrations of domesticated plants, along with patches of unusually nutrient-rich soil that could have been created by people, might indicate that ancient Amazonians had indeed shaped their environment.

There’s basically no such thing as “untapped nature”; people have transformed their environments wherever they’ve lived. Some cultures are simply better and doing so in a way that nature can sustain, and ours happens to be the worst.

[1] “Farm”, “park”, “garden”, and “meadow” each denotes a different place in our culture, but there’s no reason that people have to approach outdoor spaces this way (hell, even the line between “indoor” and “outdoor” could be blurrier than we make it).