Dear 2040: From an ecologically-minded artist

By Stacy Levy

To be Opened in 25 years: A letter from an ecologically-minded artist
Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education Time Capsule

What does your world look like? I am sitting at a table in the rain 25 years ago, writing in pen on a pad of paper— already an outdated method for wrangling words in my day.  The rain is falling and it feels natural and normal to hear the pattering sound of the drops on the roof.  Will rainfall be considered with such comfort and coziness for you?

These same molecules of water could be raining on you as you read this.  The drops I hear will roll in into the sea and churn in ocean currents and be transported to the clouds by evaporation and return to earth as rain.  I wonder if rain will be considered precious— will it be valued for its life-giving force rather than being perceived as an inconvenience?  Will you be living with nature more as an ally and less as an entity that cannot be fully embraced?  Will your buildings and parking lots and passages collaborate with nature or will you still be living with nature at arm’s length?   From here I worry that the human relationship with nature will continue to be strained, even more so as the climate changes and rain falls erratically and with greater force. 

From here in 2015, I worry that the forest will be filled with monoculture of Norway maples and Ailanthus and the branches of those trees will be the homes of starlings and English sparrows.  My present day forest has already had such a decline in biodiversity, it no longer contains healthy populations of native vegetation and songbirds.  If someone from 25 years before this letter were to look at my current forest, it would appear to them to be a skimmed version of the biome.  Will your landscape be hanging on by a fingernail?  Will all the Ash trees be gone the way of the American elm and the American chestnut?   Will there be beeches and red maples and tulip poplars in your woodland?

This time capsule is being placed in a remnant of nature: a metro-forest; the green fringe of the megalopolis, protected for me and now for you by forethought and a sense of the preciousness of nature.  I want to think that you will be living in a world that promotes nature to thrive in between the cracks of the built environment.  I want to imagine that my old parking lots are now your meadows and wetlands.  I want to think that the new structures will participate more fully in the natural processes at work on the site. I hope that you can sense the weather, the rainfall, the temperature, within a building: that the outdoor world is interacting with the indoor world.  I want your life in the city to be less removed from nature, and more part of nature.

We always think that the future will be full of change but I am struck by how similar the future is to the past. Forms of communication change as well as methods of transportation and hairstyles. But the human need to interact with nature is a constant: our human desire for nature has remained unchanged throughout history.  This place, this green jewel breathing oxygen for us, holds a kind of peace that cannot be replicated with the human hand. My greatest hope is that you can feel the interconnectivity of this biome, see your place in the complex web…. and feel at home in the world.

Stacy Levy

Editor’s Note: Dear 2040 is a series of blog posts containing some of the letters included in our 50th anniversary time capsule, buried in October 2015.  Throughout the rest of 2015 we’ll be posting some of those letters, sharing what our leaders, thinkers, artists, and Schuylkill Center staff are thinking about the year 2040.  You can read all the posts here.