There is no question that human’s mass constructing of cities and destruction of animal’s natural habitats is going to affect the way they live, or struggle to do so. Today I had a chat with my housemate Ben, who recently returned from a 5 month working trip to inland Australia, and has come back enriched with insight about the vast differences between life on a farm versus life in the city.
What is your overall opinion about the environment and human’s interaction with it?
Ben: The environment should be cherished and protected. Urban areas never stop growing, human populations won’t stop increasing, so we need to find a way to make our effect on the environment a sustainable one.
So you were living on a farm in rural Australia for 5 months, with only the bare essentials, right? Did you learn anything about this idea of sustainable living while you were there?
Ben: Living on a fruit farm, with no neighbours and shops for kilometers is definitely a different experience to living here in Sydney. The majority of what we were eating was grown there in the garden – that or noodles. The food waste all gets composted and put back into the earth. Being back here in the city now it’s hard to put anything in the bin. Banana peels should not be put into a plastic bag and where it sits in landfill!
How did living in a rural area for 5 months affect how you feel about the environment and the animals who inhabit it?
Ben: There is never quiet in the bush, but it’s different to the city. These sounds are natural. You get used to sharing the toilet with a colony of moths or a couple of spiders.
The other guys who farm for fruit were saying how the temperature over the last few years has been more extreme, which means less produce because the fruit gets burned by the sun.
What kind of differences in animal population diversity or behavior, did you notice?
Ben: There’s heaps of animals in the bush, but there’s heaps in the city as well. The main difference, I suppose is the types of animals you see around. The bush is full of bugs, snakes, birds, kangaroos and cows on the properties of course. In the city there’s still bugs and birds, but instead it’s just pigeons and cockroaches. The pigeons are ballsy as well.
A report on research about the effect of city living on spider populations and characteristics conducted by professor Dieter Hochuli and professor Lizzy Lowe of the University of Sydney found that the urban warmth, wealth of food sources and lack of predators led to the spiders increasing in size and reproducing at a higher rate. With this in mind, can you think of any other insects or animals who you think could be affected by the change of their habitat?
Ben: I would say it’s the pigeons again! Why are there so many pigeons in the city compared to further out? The main flocks of birds inland are those little finches, or lorikeets, never huge flocks of pigeons.
The same report notes that other animals also flourish in an urban environment, such as raccoons, rats and pigeons as you mentioned. They, however are also affected by the conditions of the city. Crickets and birds, for example, have shown signs of changing their calls to suit the louder environment. Can you recall any instances where this has occurred away from the city?
Ben: It’s no surprise to anyone that kangaroos are never seen around here. There are so many dead on the road around the farms, I can’t imagine they’d last very long in Sydney traffic. The calls of kookaburras seem louder away from the city, maybe they call more loudly when they’re in an ideal environment. Or maybe they have to call further because the other kookaburras are further away – there’s more space in the bush.
In order to sustain the biodiversity of animals in Australia, we are going to have to start implementing sustainable solutions to protecting wildlife inside the cities and out. It seems that many creatures, from insects, to birds, to mammals are already being forced to evolve, but those who cannot face a serious threat. Cities of the future should start to create solutions to these issues, lest we continue losing species to extinction.
Hochuli, D., Lowe, L. 2014, ‘City spiders are getting bigger – but that’s a good thing’, The Conversation, viewed 22 October 2014, <http://theconversation.com/city-spiders-are-getting-bigger-but-thats-a-good-thing-30605>
Smith, B. 2012, ‘City dwelling spiders getting all warm and fuzzy – and bigger’, The Age, 2nd edn, pg. 2