This is important for developing immunity to Covid and other infections and build resistance. Researchers are now pointing out the manifold benefits of rewilding of Nature for human health and well-being. This means we need to expose ourselves to more bio diversity, be in touch with a wide variety of plant life, not just manicured, artificial lawns.

According to Jacob Mills, a researcher at the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences and Environment Institute, humans traditionally lived in wilder environments, meaning children were exposed to a broader variety of microbes that build stronger immune systems.

“More time spent indoors, poor quality diets and less exposure to wild environments has led to significant increases in non-communicable diseases such as poorer respiratory health,” Mills told DW news website.

Allowing urban green space to run wild is both an ecological and cultural leap forward that is also facing inevitable resistance. For people conditioned to manicured lawns and cultured gardens, wild sprawls of native grasses and even wildflowers are often regarded as unsightly weeds.

A recent study co-authored by Mills is an early investigation into how “microbiome rewilding” in urban green spaces — from lawns to vacant lots, parklands and revegetated woodlands — can help fight chronic illness.

The study also builds on the knowledge that a greater diversity of microbial compounds in soil can also reduce stress and anxiety.
“We’re investigating if rewilding urban centers can help rewild our microbial experience to what our evolutionary history has dictated to us that we need,” Mills said.

We have some encouraging experiences from India.This girl must be a most unusual nature lover. She has been walking in Bangalore for the past 130 days without once taking public transport or using her bicycle or jeep. Using her two legs all the time for going round, exploring trees and plants, climbers, talking with people and watching life in general.

Confined to Bangalore because of the lockdown, away from her botanical sanctuary in Waynad, Kerala, Suprabha Seshan is rediscovering Bangalore of her childhood. It is a revealatory experience, there is so much to discover in our neighbourhood but we choose to go far away in search of things, she says.

It was fascinating to hear her yesterday and Pradeep Krishen, the author of excellent books on trees, during a webinar organized by Environment Support Group ESG of Bangalore of the team of Leo Saldanha, Bhargavi Rao and others.

Pradeep makes a remarkable point, we have an astonishingly large number of native trees, 2600, far more than there are in entire Europe and U.S. Yet, we plant only 50 or 60 varieties. And we often choose wrong trees. Trees have to be planted keeping in mind local rainfall and soil. No point in planting ever green trees in Delhi. Delhi requires different trees and so on.

He made a very interesting point about our craze for planting palm trees around our airports. It is very foolish of our landscape designes that with all our biodiversity we are turning to desert regions of Dubai and Sharjah , we are imitating them.

That apart this is the best season to discover our own nature in the style of Suprabha. My own observation is we are very short of Neem trees. Our heavily polluted cities need to be full of Neem trees because of their therapeutic, oxygen supporting quality. Gujarat has much more awareness in this field and I have seen avenues full of the species.

While trees occupy a lot of space in our imagination and we have campaigns for trees, there is not much awareness about plants and grasses. In some bungalows in Bandra I have seen a wonderful mosaic of a big variety of colourful plants and shrubs. But it is the silly , monotonous, monoculture of the lawn that our elite is occupied with.

If Nature is left to itself as it is now with garden staff shortage due to lockdown, it can grow in abundance and it is a joy to see the greenery in all its naturalness without being trimmed and pruned. In one little patch in Joggers Park I discovered a wide variety of grasses, some very thick and sturdy, it is a joy to walk barefoot on this patch of greenery.

Machine in the Garden is an important book by Leo Marx about the interruption of pastoral scenery by technology due to the industrialization of America during the 19th and 20th century.and published by Oxford University Press. The title is metaphorical. Never thought would be seeing such a visible intrusion of machinery as this in Joggers Park in Bandra. The authorities seem busy working on the needless coastal road but have no time to remove junk, debris lying for the past few months from this best known park in Mumbai.The debris includes a machine, actually, concrete making machine. Can you believe it, it is there for the last several months, a monstrosity, an eyesore.

We also need more naturalists, botanists, experts like Pradeep Krishen to advise the gardening departments and forest authorities about the importance of biodiversity, planting a wide variety of shrubs, plants and grasses and not trees.

Also more intelligent walkers are needed. Some of the walkers in the parks walk mechanically with expensive clothes and shoes without any understanding of nature, they are totally cut off from nature and arrive in expensive cars which is in a way deeply anti-nature when you are out to take exercise.

They are not bothered about the debris lying in the park but they want to mow, almost remove the abundant, luxurious grass and shurbs now growing in all their glory in the monsoon . Some of them also want to bar entry to the poor to parks. There was a big agitation by rich walkers when the municipal corporation of Mumbai took over the formerly privately-managed Joggers Park . The civic body withdrew the entry fee of Rs two. The fears of the rich that the poor would vandalise the park with their free entry have proved to be totally unfounded and irrational.

Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of a book on the democratisation of streets and transport


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