“WHY AREN’T WE REALLY THAT SPECIAL”
A creative non-fiction essay by Estefanía Hernández Medina.
It was a misty and cold morning in Greenwich, London. I was wandering through the park as any other tourist would do when visiting such huge and beautiful green lungs in a city always chaotic and hectic. The degree of happiness I was feeling surrounded by trees, grass, ducks, squirrels, crows and other creatures was unmeasurable; you don’t get to experience how important it is having a green space in a metropolis like London, even less so in Tenerife, my native island.
While I was there, the crows flew by up above my head, squirrels were chasing each other and climbing trees at the speed of sound, and ducks were just half sleeping in their ponds. At first I thought that passing by next to them would scare them and they would fly away, but no, they didn’t. In fact, these animals, especially ducks and pigeons, remained still in their places as if unaware of my existence. I continued walking and, almost hidden, crouched and busy, there was an old man taking care of the daffodils. Next, I arrived to a playground full of children enjoying the morning.
Now that you probably have pictured the scene in your head and followed me through it, you may have realized one particular thing: all of this happened in the same park. It is known that Greenwich Park is a vast and important area in London but you don’t get to really know its magnitude until you find yourself there, alone. You may think that this is another tale praising the British city and despising any other place that does not look or aspire to be like it. But you are wrong. I am addressing you, Spanish (and Canarian) reader, to reconsider what have we done wrong to let our green spaces fade and whither. I am addressing you so you can appreciate, as much as I did that March, how important it is to love nature regardless of its name, form and colour. And I am addressing you as much as myself.
Stop and think for one second. Why is it so romantic and valuable that image of the elderly man with his daffodils; that of the ducks and pigeons living their lives without being disturbed one bit by people?
Why is it so beautiful that children are playing carelessly near wild animals instead of playing with their smartphones? Why is it so important that this happened in a big city? Why is it different from the countryside?
Yes, it is true that one of our Islands charming features is the contrast between arid country and greenery. It is also true that one and each place upon this old and finite Earth is unique. However, I came to one striking realization, one that has been growing and maturing in my mind unconsciously. We have to preserve our parks, even if they only have a single palm tree and some cacti. We have the duty to take care of our surroundings as much as of ourselves, because by doing so we can say that our existence has mattered. Being selfish, thinking ‘we are all going to die someday, so what’s the point?’ or being careless, are the worst feelings a human being can possess. Yes, you are selfish. Yes, we will die someday but that doesn’t mean that you have the divine right to destroy and not face the consequences.
Going backwards to London: that morning I felt a strong connection with a place I do not inhabit, I felt a bond that only Nature can make you feel. However, the strongest connection was with my island even if that seems illogical. This bond with Tenerife increased in both, a positive and negative way. I learned to love any place of this planet and learned to hate what we are doing against it. In the Canary Islands, few places are still spotless and this is a sad truth. You only have to look at the ‘brand-new’ port of Granadilla. Beautiful, isn’t it? Where there was only beach once, now there are pristine drilling platforms: the best landscape in the world.
But this is not a manifesto or a complaint letter either. This is only my version of what other people have probably experienced when in contact with nature inside a metropolis: the need for fresh air and a way out.