What We Can Learn From Urban Wildlife
Nearly 4.5 billion people–56% of the world’s population–currently live in urban centers. People flock to cities for economic opportunities, access to healthcare and education, and other cultural and interpersonal amenities.
Animals are also increasingly becoming urban dwellers. As our cities grow due to their swelling human populations, more land is needed for urban areas, leading naturally to the loss of wildlife habitats. Some scientists project that land lost to urban expansion in the coming years will affect more than 30,000 animal species.
That’s a sobering number, and demands that we plan our cities to allow for wildlife conservation. Inspiringly, however, many animal species are already infiltrating and successfully adapting to our cities.
A new PBS nature program titled Wild Metropolis highlights the success stories of a wide array of animal species. In Amsterdam, grey herons learn to visit city fish markets for food; elephants in Sri Lanka learn to live alongside a well-traveled highway; rats have adapted so thoroughly that they now live almost exclusively in cities.
For a long time, we’ve thought humans, with their large brains and planning abilities were at the top of the heap. But these urban animal success stories should leave us with at least one question.
What can humans learn from animals?
The often-incredible adaptability of animals–like grey herons adapting to eat at night when fewer humans are around–should be the first trait humans seek to emulate.
Make no mistake. It’s not easy to increase your own adaptability. It’s so difficult, in fact, that there’s actually a named phenomenon known as the “adaptability paradox” — when we most need to learn and change, often in high-stress and high-stakes situations, we’re actually most likely to “react with old approaches” that’ve worked for us in the past.
Our changing climate and societal structures are providing new challenges for humans, and, like animals, we have to overcome our resistance to change. One way to foster adaptability is to work on your focus. To the best of our knowledge, many animals aren’t…