Describing the tangled roots that wrap around stone and weave through old corridors, Wilson paints a mystical picture of the ancient temple of Angkor Wat that has been consumed by the banyans.
Some may see this image as a portrayal of ruin and degradation of civilisation, but author Ben Wilson points out that banyans were once a sacred tree and their growth was welcomed in the old cities of South Asia. However, we have been trained to “overlook and disregard” the entwinement of nature and city and this connection has broken down.
Wilson discusses the histories of nature within cityscapes: until fairly recently in human history, cities and nature had a much closer relationship than one might think. Wilson discusses the different areas in which nature can be found – suburbs, parks & recreation grounds, cracks in the concrete, an eye-opening revelation to the vast number of potential opportunities there are to reconnect with nature, which are often overlooked. Suburban gardens alone, for instance, can make up 25% of a city’s green space.
Urban Jungle awakens awareness of the consequences of this loss of connection between nature and the city. The city is, after all, an ecosystem in itself. Despite the book being a firm warning of the consequences of human-caused wildlife degradation, Wilson writes with hope. By looking at the past Wilson reflects ambitiously on the future: an example Wilson uses being Singapore, a city that in its early days of expansion wreaked havoc on the surrounding natural environment but is now a model of urban biodiversity with 56% of the city covered in vegetation.
With its factual content yet poetic, storytelling style, Urban Jungle makes an entertaining and educational read and encourages the reader to see the cityscape in a new light.
Author Maia Ingham-Jerrey